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MR. JOHN MILTON'S
CHARACTER OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT
AND ASSEMBLY OF DIVINES,
Omitted in his other Works, and never before printed, and very seasonable
for these Times.
London, printed for Henry Brome, at the Gun at the West end of St. Paul's,
1681. Quarto, containing sixteen Pages,
TO THE READER.
THE reader may take notice, that this character of Mr. Milton's was a
part of his History of Britain, and by him designed to be printed: but, out of tenderness to a party (whom neither this nor much more lenity has had the luck to oblige), it was struck out for some harshness, being only such a digression, as the history itself would not be discomposed by its omission; which I suppose will be easily discerned, by reading over the beginning of the third book of the said
history, very near which place this character is to come in. It is reported, and from the foregoing character it seems probable, that
Mr. Milton had lent most of his personal estate upon the publick faith; which, when he somewhat earnestly and warmly pressed to have restored (observing how all in offices had not only feathered their own nests, but had inriched many of their relations and creatures, before the publick debts were discharged], after a long and chargeable attendance, met with very sharp rebukes; upon which, at last despairing of any success in this affair, he was forced to return from them poor and friendless, having spent all his moncy, and wearied all his friends. And he had not probably mended his worldly condition in those days, but by performing such service for them, as afterwards he did, for which scarce any thing would appear too great.
F these, who swayed most in the late troubles, few words, as to this
point, may suffice. They had arms, leaders, and successes to their wish; but to make use of so great an advantage was not their skill.
To other causes therefore, and not to the want of force, or warlike VOL. V,
manhood in the Britons, both those, and these lately, we must impute the ill-husbanding of those fair opportunities, which might seem to have put liberty, so long desired, like a bridle into their hands. Of which other causes equally belonging to ruler, priest, and people, above have been related; which, as they brought those ancient natives to misery and ruin, by liberty, which, rightly used, might have made them happy; so brought they these of late, after many labours, much bloodshed, and vast expence, to ridiculous frustration; in whom the like defects, the like miscarriages notoriously appeared, with vices not less hateful or inexcusable.
For, a parliament being called to redress many things, as it was thought, the people, with great courage, and expectation to be eased of what discontented them, chose to their behoof in parliament such as they thought best affected to the publick good, and some, indeed, men of wisdom and integrity; the rest, to be sure the greater part, whom wealth or ample possessions, or bold and active ambition, rather than merit, had commended to the same place.
But, when once the superficial zeal and popular fumes, that acted their new magistracy, were cooled, and, spent in them, straight every one betook himself, setting the eommonwealth behind, his private ends before, to do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and soon after denied : spight and favour determined all: hence faction, thence treachery, both at home and in the field: every where wrong, and oppression : foul and horrid deeds committed daily, or maintained, in secret, or openly. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, without other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees, as their breeding was, fell to huckster the commonwealth. Others did thereafter as men could sooth and humour them best; so he who would give most, or, under covert of hypocritical zeal, insinuate basest, enjoyed unworthily the rewards of learning and fidelity; or escaped the punishment of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws, and the immediate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else, but new impositions, taxes, excises; yearly, monthly, weekly. Not to reckon the offices, gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared amongst themselves: they, in the mean, while, who were ever faithfullest to this cause, and freely aided them in person, or with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted, and bereaved after of their just debts by greedy sequestrations, were tossed up and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another with pétitions in their hands; yet, either missed the obtaining of their suit, or, though it were at length granted (mere shame and reason oftentimes extorting from them at least a shew of justice) yet, by their sequestrators and sub-committees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable hands, and noted disloyalty, those orders were commonly disobeyed; which, for certain, durst not have been, without secret compliance, if not compact with some superiors able to bear them out. Thus were their friends confiscate in their enemies, while they. forfeited their debtors to the state, as they called it, but indeed to the ravening seizure of innumerable thieves in office; yey
were withal no less burthened in all extraordinary assessments and oppressions, than those whom they took to be disaffected : nor were we happier creditors to what we called the state, than to them who were sequestered as the state's enemies.
For that faith, which ought to have been kept as sacred and inviolable as any thing holy, the publick faith, after infinite sums received, and all the wealth of the church not better employed, but swallowed up into a private gulph, was not before long ashamed to confess bankrupt. And now, besides the sweetness of bribery, and other gain, with the love of rule, their own guiltiness, and the dreaded name of just account, which the people had long called for, discovered plainly that there were of their own number, who secretly contrived and fomented those troubles and combustions in the land, which openly they sat to remedy; and would continually find such work, as should keep them from being ever brought to that terrible stand, of laying down their authority for lack of new business, or not drawing it out to any length of time, though upon the ruin of a whole nation.
And, if the state were in this plight, religion was not in much better; to reform which, a certain number of divines were called, neither chosen by any rule or custom ecclesiastical, nor eminent for either piety or knowledge above others left out; only as each member of parliament in his private fancy thought fit, so elected one by one. The most part of them were such, as had preached and cried down, with great shew of zeal, the avarice and pluralities of bishops and pluralities; that one eure of souls was a full employment for one spiritual pastor, how able soever, if not a charge rather above human strength. Yet these conscientious men (before any part of the work done for which they came together, and that on the publick salary) wanted not boldness, to the ignominy and scandal of their pastor-like profession, and cspecially of their boasted reformation, to seize into their hands, or not unwillingly to accept (besides one, sometimes two or more of the best livings) collegiate masterships in the universities, rich lectures in the city, setting sail to all winds that might blow gain into their covetous bosoins : by which means these great rebukers of non-residence, amongst so many distant cures, were not ashamed to be seen so quickly pluralists and non-residents themselves, to a fearful condemnation doubiless by their own mouths. And yet the main doctrine for which they took such pay, and insisted upon with more vehemence than gospel, was but to tell us, in effect, that their doctrine was worth nothing, and the spiritual power of their ministry less available than bodily compulsion; persuading the magistrate to use it, as a stronger means to subduc and bring in conscience, than evangelical persuasion: distrusting the vertue of their own spiritual wcapons, which were given them, if they be rightly called, with full warrant of sufficiency to pull down all thoughts and imaginations that exalt themselves against God. But, while they taught compulsion without convincement, which not long before they complained of, as executed unchristianly, against themselves, these intents are clear to have been no better than anti-christian; setting up a spiritual tyranny by a secular power, to the advancing of their own authority
above the magistrate, whom they would have made their executioner, to punish church delinquencies, whereof civil laws have no cog. nisance.
And well did their disciples manifest themselves to be no better prin. cipled than their teachers, trusted with committeeships, and other gainful offices, upon their commendations for zealous and as they sticked not to term them) godly men, but executing their places, like children of the devil, unfaithfully, unjustly, unmercifully, and, where not corruptly, stupidly; so that, between them the teachers, and these the disciples, there hath not been a more ignominious and mortal wound to faith, to piety, to the work of reformation; nor more cause of blaspheming given to the enemies of God and truth, since the first preaching of reformation.
The people, therefore, looking one while on the statists, whom they beheld without constancy or firmness, labouring doubtfully beneath the weight of their own too high undertakings, busiest in petty things, trifling in the main, deluded and quite alienated, expressed divers ways their disaffection, some despising whom before they honoured, some deserting, some inveighing, some conspiring against them. Then, looking on the churchmen, whom they saw, under subtle hypocrisy, to have proached their own follies, most of them not the gospel; time servers, covetous, illiterate persecutors, not lovers of the truth; like in most things, whereof they accused their predecessors: looking on all this, the people, which had been kept warm a while with the counter feit zeal of their pulpits, after a false heat, became more cold and obdurate than before, soine turning to lewdness, some tn flat atheism, put beside their old religion, and foully scandalised in what they expected should be new.
Thus they, who of late were extolled as our greatest deliverers, and liad the people wholly at their devotion, by so discharging their trust, as we see, did not only weaken and unfit themselves to be dispensers of what liberty they pretended, but unfitted also the people, now grown worse and more disordinate, to receive, or to digest any liberty at all. For stories teach us, that liberty, sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself into a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands; neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to fiame them substantially, that good men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb .which they need. But to do this, and to know these exquisite proportions, the heroick wisdom, which is required, surmounted far the principles of these narrow politicians; what wonder, then, if they sink, as these unfortunate Britons before them, entangled and oppressed with things tou hard, and generous above their strain and temper? for Britain, to speak a truth not often spoken, as it is a land fruitful enough of men stout and courageous in war, so is ii, naturally, not over-fertile of men able to govern justly and prudlently in peace, trusting only in their mother-wit, who consider not justly, that civility, prudence, love of the publick good, more than of money or vain honour, are, to this soil, in a manner outlandish; grow yot here, but in minds well implanted with solid and elaborate breeding, too impolitick else, and rude, if not headstrong and intractable to the industry and virtue either of executing, or understanding true civil government; valiant, indeed, and prosperous to win a field, but, to know the end and reason of winning, unjudicious and unwise; in good or bad success alike unteachable. For the sun, which we want, ripens wits, as well as fruits; and, as wine and oil are imported to us from abroad, so must ripe understanding, and many civil virtues be imported into our minds from foreign writings, and examples of best ages, we shall else mișcarry still
, and come short in the attempts of any great enterprise. Hence did their victories prove as fruitless, as their losses dangerous, and left them, still conquering, under the same grievances, that men suffer, conquered; which was indeed unlikely to go otherwise, unless men more than vulgar bred up, as few of them were, in the knowledge of ancient and illustrious deeds, invincible against many and vain titles, impartial to friendships and relations, had conducted their affairs; but then, from the chapman to the retailer, many, whose ignorance was more audacious than the rest, were admitted, with all their sordid rudiments, to bear no mean sway among them, both in church and state.
From the confluence of all their errors, mischiefs, and misdemeanors, what in the eyes of man could be expected, but what befell those ancient inbabitants, whom they so much resembled, confusion in the end?
But on these things, and this parallel, having enough insisted, I return to the story which gave us matter of this digression.
THE BISHOP'S POTION :
A DIALOGUE, BETWEEN THE BISHOP OF CANTERBURY
AND HIS PHYSICIAN;
Wherein he desireth the Doctor to have a Care of his Body, and to pre
serde him from being let Blood in the Neck, when the Sign is in Taurus.
Printed in the Year 1641. Quarto, containing six Pages;
Doctor. I understand, by one of your gentlemen, your grace was pleased to send for me?