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bishop Usher published a Confutation. To this Confutation Milton replied in his Treatise Of Prelatical Episcopacy. And, although he has ungracefully classed the archbishop's Confutation with “ some late treatises, one whereof goes under the name of James, Lord Bishop of Armagh," he has, in his next publication, complimented the excellent prelate for his learning. With such an adversary as Usher, indeed, which of the Smectymnuans would have dared to cope ? This enterprise none could partake with Milton. Vehement as he was in his reply to the two bishops, he also enlarged this topick of puritanical zeal in another performance, entitled The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelacy, in two books. And, bishop Hall having published A Defence of the Humble Remonstránce, he wrote Animadversions upon it. These treatises were the fruits of his prejudice against the established Church in 1641. From the third treatise, The Reason of Church Government, we derive some knowledge of his literary projects, and of the opinion he entertained of his own abilities; expressed, as Dr. Johnson well observes, not with ostentatious exultation, but with calm confidence; with a promise to undertake something, he yet knows not what, that may be of use and honour to his country. The whole passage, from which Dr. Johnson has cited a small part as a fervid, pious, and rational pledge of the Paradise Lost, however well known to the admirers of order to produce this celebrated word ! This is to be enumerated among the few playful tricks of fanaticism.
the poet, is too sublime and interesting to be read again and again without renewed and encreased delight.
“* Time serves not now, and, perhaps, I might seem too profuse to give any certain account of what the mind at home, in the spacious circuits of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself, though of highest hope and hardest attempting; whether that epick form, whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tasso, are a diffuse, and the book of Job a brief, model; or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be followed; which in them that know art, and use judgement, is no transgression, but an en- · riching of art: and lastly, what king or knight, before the Conquest, might be chosen, in whom to lay. the pattern of a christian hero. And as Tasso gave to a prince of Italy his choice, whether he would command him to write of Godfrey's expedition against the infidels, Belisarius against the Goths, or Charlemain against the Lombards ; if to the instinct of nature, and the emboldening of art, aught may be trusted, and that there be nothing adverse in our climate, or the fate of this age, it haply would be no rashness, from an equal diligence and inclination, to present the like offer in our ancient stories. Or whether those dramatick constitutions, wherein Sophocles and Euripides reign, shall be found more
* Introduction to the second book.
doctrinal and exemplary to a nation.—Or, if occasion shall lead, to imitate those magnifick odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things worthy. But those frequent songs throughout the Law and Prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very critical art of composition, may be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyrick poesy to be incomparable. These abilities, wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation; and are of power, besides the office of a pulpit, to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and publick civility, to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's Almightiness, and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought, with high providence in his church ; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, in virtue amiable or grave, whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that, which is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's thoughts from within; all these things, with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and describe, teaching over the whole book of sanctity and virtue, through all the instances of example, with such delight, to those especially of soft and delicious temper, who will not so much as look upon Truth herself, unless they see her elegantly drest, that whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they will then appear to all men both easy and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult indeed.
“ The thing which I had to say, and those intentions, which have lived within me ever since I could conceive myself any thing worth to my country, I return to crave excuse that urgent reason hath pluckt from me by an abortive and fore-dated discovery; and the accomplishment of them lies not but in a power above man's to promise; but that none hath by more studious ways endeavoured, and with more unwearied spirit that none shall, that I dare almost aver of myself, as far as life and free leisure will extend. Neither do I think it shame to covenant with any knowing reader that for some few years, yet I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted, as being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher fury of a riming parasite; nor to be obtained by the invocation of dame Memory and her Siren daughters; but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit, who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases : : to this must be added industrious and select reading, steady observation, insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs; till which in some measure be compassed, at mine own peril and cost I refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many as are not loth to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges that I can give them. Although it nothing content me to have disclosed thus much before hand; but that I trust hereby to make it manifest with what small willingness I endure to interrupt the pursuit of no less hopes than these, and leave a calm and pleasing solitariness, fed with cheerful and confident thoughts, to imbark in a troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes, put from beholding the bright countenance of Truth, in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.”
In 1642 he closed the preceding controversy with an Apology for Smectymnuus, in answer to the Confutation of his Animadversions, written, as he supposed, by bishop Hall or his son. He thought all this while, says Dr. Newton, that he was vindicating ecclesiastical liberty. Yet he has confessed, that he was not disposed to “y this manner of writing, wherein knowing myself inferiour to myself, led by the genial power of nature to another task, I have
y Introduction to the second Book of his Reason of Church Government.