Page images
PDF
EPUB

of a Law and Doctrin falfely and unlearnedly reputed new and fcandalous, God, that I may ever magnifie and record this his Goodnes, hath unexpectedly rais'd up as it were from the dead, more then one famous Light of the first Reformation to bear witnes with me, and to do me honour in that very thing, wherein these men thought to have blotted me: And hath giv'n them the proof of a capacity which they defpis'd, running equal, and authentic with fome of their chiefest Masters unthought of, and in a point of fagest moment. However, if we know at all when to afcribe the Occurences of this life to the work of a special Providence, as nothing is more usual in the talk of good men, what can be more like to a special Providence of God, then in the first Reformation of England, that this queftion of Divorce, as a main thing to be reftor'd to just freedom, was writt'n, and seriously commended to Edward the fixt, by a man call'd from another Country to be the inftructer of our Nation; and now in this present renewing of the Church and Commonwealth, which we pray may be more lafting, that the fame Question fhould be again treated and presented to this Parlament, by one enabl'd to use the fame reasons without the least fight or knowledg of what was done before. It were no trefpas, Lords and Commons, though fomething of lefs note were attributed to the ordering of a heavenly Power; this question therfore of fuch prime concernment both to Chriftian and Civil welfare, in fuch an extraordinary manner, not recover'd, but plainly twice born to these latter Ages, as from a divine hand I tender to your Acceptance, and most confiderate Thoughts. Think not that God rais'd up in vain a man of greatest autority in the Church to tell a trivial and licentious Tale in the ears of that good Prince, and to bequeath it as his laft Will and Testament, nay rather as the Teftament

and Royal Law of Chrift to this Nation; or that it should of it self after fo many years, as it were in a new Feild where it was never fow'n, grow up again as a vitious plant in the mind of another, who had spoke honestest things to the Nation; though he knew not that what his Youth then reafon'd without a pattern, had bin heard already, and well allow'd from the Gravity and Worth of Martin Bucer: till meeting with the envy of men ignorant in their own undertak'n Calling, God directed him to the forgott'n Writings of this faithful Evangelist, to be his defence and warrant against the grofs imputation of broaching Licence. Ye are now in the glorious way to high Vertue, and matchlefs Deeds, trusted with a most ineftimable Truft, the afferting of our juft Liberties. Ye have a Nation that expects now, and from mighty fuffrings afpires to be the example of all Christendom to a perfeteft reforming. Dare to be as great, as ample, and as eminent in the fair progress of your noble defigns, as the full and goodly ftature of Truth and Excellence it felf; as unlimited by petty Precedents and Copies, as your unquestionable Calling from Heaven gives ye power to be. What are all our public Immunities and Privileges worth? and how fhall it be judg'd that we fight for them with Minds worthy to enjoy them, if we fuffer our felves in the mean while not to understand the most important freedom that God and Nature hath giv'n us in the family; which no wife Nation ever wanted, till the Popery and Superftition of fome former Ages attempted to remove and alter divine and most prudent Laws for human and most imprudent Canons: whereby good men in the best portion of their lives, and in that Ordinance of God which entitles them from the beginning to most just and requifite contentments, are compell'd to civil Indignities, which by the Law of Mofes bad men were not

compell'd to? Be not bound about, and ftraitn'd in the fpatious Wisdom of your free Spirits, by the scanty and unadequat and inconfiftent Principles of fuch as condemn others for adhering to Traditions, and are themselves the proftrat Worshippers of Cuftom; and of fuch a tradition as they can deduce from no antiquity, but from the rudeft, and thickest Bar-. barism of Antichriftian times. But why do I anticipate the more acceptable, and prevailing voice of learned Bucer himself, the Paftor of Nations? And O that I could fet him living before ye in that Doctoral Chair, where once the learnedest of England thought it no difparagement to fit at his feet! He would be fuch a Pilot, and fuch a Father to ye, as ye would foon find the difference of his hand and fkill upon the helm of Reformation. Nor do I forget that faithful Affociate of his Labours, Paulus Fagius; for these their great Names and Merits, how pretious fo ever, God hath now joyn'd with me neceffarily, in the good or evil report of this doctrine which I leave with you. It was writt'n to a religious King of this Land; writt'n earnestly, as a main matter wherin this Kingdom needed a reform, if it purpos'd to be the Kingdom of Chrift: Writt'n by him, who if any fince the days of Luther, merits to be counted the Apostle of our Church; whofe unwearied pains and watching for our fakes, as they spent him quickly here among us, fo did they, during the shortnes of his Life, incredibly promote the Gofpel throughout this Realm. The Autority, the Learning, the Godlines of this Man confulted with, is able to out-ballance all that the lightnes of a vulgar oppofition can bring to counterpoife. I leave him alfo as my complete Surety and Testimonial, if Truth be not the best witnes to it felf, that what I formerly presented to your reading on this subject, was good, and juft, and honeft, not licentious. Not

[ocr errors]

that I have now more confidence by the addition of these great Authors to my party; for what I wrote was not my opinion, but my Knowledg; ev'n then when I could trace no footstep in the way I went: nor that I think to win upon your apprehenfions with Numbers and with Names, rather then with Reasons, yet certainly the worst of my detracters will not except against fo good a bail of my integrity and judgment, as now appears for me. They must els put in the Fame of Bucer and of Fagius, as my Accomplices and Confederats into the fame Inditement; they must dig up the good Name of these prime Worthies (if their Names could be ever buried) they must dig them up and brand them as the Papists did their bodies; and those their pure unblamable Spirits, which live not only in Heaven, but in their Writings, they must attaint with new Attaintures which no Proteftant ever before afpers'd them with. Or if perhaps we may obtain to get our Appeachment new drawn, a Writ of Error, not of Libertism, that those two principal Leaders of Reformation may not now come to be fu'd in a Bill of Licence, to the fcandal of our Church; the brief refult will be, that for the Error, if their own Works be not thought fufficient to defend them, there livs yet who will be ready, in a fair and christianly difcuffive way, to debate and fift this matter to the utmost ounce of Learning and Religion, in him that shall lay it as an error, either upon Martin Bucer, or any other of his Opinion. If this be not enough to qualifie my Traducers, and that they think it more for the Wisdom of thir Virulence, not to recant the Injuries they have bespoke me, I fhall not for much more disturbance then they can bring me, intermit the profecution of those Thoughts which may render me best serviceable, either to this Age, or if it fo happ'n, to Pofterity; following the fair path which your illustrious

Exploits, Honour'd Lords and Commons, against the breft of Tyranny have open'd; and depending fo on your happy fucceffes in the hopes that I have conceiv'd either of my self, or of the Nation, as must needs conclude me who moft affectionately wishes and awaits the profperous iffue of your noble and valorous Counfels.

JOHN MILTON.

[graphic][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »