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detected the forgery, if a forgery the treatise be; and Skinner instead of being admitted to the honours of his college, and of being led to expect promotion from the secretary of state, would have been overwhelmed with confusion, disappointment, and contempt. Sir Joseph Williamson, too, we have seen, expressed to Skinner that he should be displeased if the manuscript was published; evidently because he was told, and because he believed; that Milton had compiled it.
There are certainly some expressions in the treatise, which may have maintained their position from heedless copying, or from dictation misunderstood. In the first part of the manuscript, which has been transcribed by Skinner, “ u the mistakes, especially in the references to the quotations, are in the proportion of fourteen to one, as compared with those in the remaining three-fifths of the work.”
Of this part we know not what alterations, what pasted slips of amendments, or what other marginal corrections, and in different hand-writings, might (as in the remaining larger part * such still exist) have been directed. It is a transcript hastily and
"Dr. Sumner's Introduct. p. xv.
* A very curious description of Milton's care in these respects is given by Dr. Sumner, Lat. edit. p. 314. n. 7.
y Milton appears to have been mortified, in his declining years, at the mistakes of those who copied from his dictation. He tells Peter Heimbach in a letter dat. Aug. 15, 1666. “ Hoc abs te
incorrectly made. Perhaps by one of these mistakes the words Ecclesiam Domini, ut nostra recens, in the fifth chapter of the first book, have remained; as no English version of Acts xx. 28. (the passage in question) is found to exhibit the Church of the Lord, although the various readings given in bishop Wilson's Bible mention one with that reading, which has in vain been sought by Dr. Sumner, myself, and others. Jeremiah Felbinger, an unitarian divine of Germany, is known to have rendered, in his German translation of the New Testament in 1660, the passage in the same form, viz. the Church of the Lord ; and hence the treatise, it has been thought, might be traced to him : as though Skinner, and the other writers of the manuscript, had all concurred in substituting for Milton this person. The reading in the manuscript, which is Ecclesiam Domini, is cited as the Latin rendering of the Syriack Version of the New Testament, and is given by Walton in his Polyglott Bible, published in 1657; and to this publication ut rečens nostra might refer, if the passage be not an extract from some writing by the German divine referring to his translation, which has here remained unaltered; as there is also a subsequent reference, but without laying absolute stress upon the passage, to Rom. ix 5. grossly corrupted by the pointing of this translator. Milton in his printed works has both the Church of God, and the Church of Christ, the latter of which also, as well as the Church of the Lord, is here the reading of some manuscripts. But if we are to trace to others from certain passages, from whole sentences indeed, and from particular sentiments as well as expressions, professedly compiled, an authorship of the whole; then we must be compelled to say that Ames and Wollebius, not to mention others, (and from Wollebius and Ames, his nephew has expressly told us, Milton ordered extracts to be made, when he first thought of a tractate of divinity,) present a similar, indeed a 'stronger, claim to notice as the writers of the present treatise.
impetravero, ut, si quid mendosè descriptum aut non interpunctum reperires, id puero, qui hæc excepit, Latinè prorsùs nescienti, velis imputare, cui singulas planè literulas annumerare non sine miseria dictans cogebar.” There is, in the present treatise, mistaken reference also to subjects of discussion.
i It has been also observed, that Selden is named in this treatise without some distinctive addition of respect. It is thus, that Milton speaks of him, in some of his a latest works, simply as “ our Selden.” Nor has it been overlooked, that the innumerable citations from Scripture in the trea
· * See the obligations to both in the manuscript already stated, p. 312. With Wollebius he agrees oftener than with Ames. But see also before, p. 358. With Felbinger there is a very remarkable difference in the present manuscript : for he wrote, in his Demonstrationes Christiane, “ quod gratia divina per fidem justificati teneantur vitam suam instituere secundum decem precepta Dei et mandata Christi, &c. ex libris N. T. deprompt.” This is not Milton's doctrine in the present treatise.
a More than once in his Consid. to remove Hirelings out of the Church, p. 17.
tise could hardly have been remembered or dictated by Milton. But this, and I must repeat too that many of them are citations by other writers, was also his method : His two short treatises, Of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes, and The Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church, both formed in 1659, long after he was blind, thus contain nearly two hundred cited texts from the Old and New Testament. But in a word, to copy the remarks of an acute investigator of the treatise, “b the mind of Milton is stamped on every page. Not only are the known opinions of this remarkable man maintained with the usual seriousness of his character, but the manner in which he arrives at certain newer tenets, adopted by him at a later period of life, bears the same unquestionable impress of his peculiar way of thinking. In the tone all is grave, earnest, and solemn; in the matter there appears not merely a disdain of human authority, but a jealousy of all received doctrines ; and finally, to whatever, conclusions his arguments may lead, Milton fearlessly pursues and implicitly adopts them. Indeed the more extravagant tenets developed in the work are but the necessary consequences which result from his principles, and at once illustrate most clearly and refute most conclusively the reasonings from which they are deduced. It is not an uncommon case, especially in theology, for those who advance erroneous opinions, when pushed with dan
gerous consequences as their necessary result, to disa claim the inferences which themselves have not drawn. But Milton was too severe a reasoner, and too honest à man, to disavow or shrink from the avowal of all legitimate inferences from his own opinions. He was therefore neither appalled nor shaken by the view of his system as a whole ; which, however it admits the expediency, and even the duty, of uniting in a particular church, would inevitably produce in its result the isolation of every individual, and the dissolution of every religious community.”
. Nor may the following criticism, in another country, which notices the religious opinions of Milton, and refers to his various changes of them, be overpassed. “ ° Una criticà delle opinioni politiche e religiose di Milton si può avere nell'opera Ritratti Poetici, Storici, e Critici di varii moderni uomini di lettere di Appio Anneo da Faba cromaziano. Ven. 1796, tom. ii. p. 78; dove si può conoscere quanto sia vero che Milton in giovinezza Puritano, in età matura Anabatista e Indipendente, in vecchiezza di nessuna setta, cangio religion cangiando pelo, com' ivi è scritto. Sembra che l' odio di lui verso il Clero non fosse che una consequenza di quell' amore di libertà, che lo dominava, e cui opponeva un grande ostaculo la somma influenza dell' ordine religioso sulle cose dell'Inghilterra al tempo di quelle fiere sommosse : crederei quindi che piu
• Saggio di Critica, &c. ut supr. p. 156.