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their perpetrator to the sword of justice. He maintained the coronation oath to be a covenant between the people and the king, binding the former to all lawful obedience, restraining the authority of the latter within certain limits; and he supposed it possible that either party might break this covenant. While the individual entrusted with supreme authority acted justly, he regarded him as a king; when he overpassed the limits prescribed to his authority by the law, or general reason, sidered him a tyrant, or public enemy, whom it was lawful to deal with accordingly. And for this view of the matter he had the concurring testimony of many good kings, and of some bad ones, among others, of James I., who had remembered so much of the lessons of Buchanan. Locke, afterwards, with the approbation of king William III., put forward the same opinions, and I know not at what subsequent period of our history they came to be accounted unconstitutional.
44. To prove the truth of the above doctrine, and vindicate his countrymen for having reduced his principles to action, were the prime objects of his "Eikonoklastes,” and “Defence of the People of England." The former treatise, intended to work conviction in those who spoke the English language, which he loved, and, for the expression of sentiment, and the inner affections of the mind, preferred to all others, was accordingly written in the mother tongue; but the latter, aiming at the perhaps more difficult achievement of convincing foreign nations and kings, that the senate and peo
ple of England had, in the late transaction, not overstepped the strict bounds of justice, was of necessity composed in Latin, then the language of public business throughout Europe, and employed by the republic in all its negociations with foreign states. This inconvenience, therefore, was not at the time to be avoided; but since a wholly different taste in literature has been generated, in spite of the classic labours of our universities, Milton's most finished and finest reasoned prose composition has fallen into a still more utter neglect, if I may hazard the solecism, than that in which his other works have, with one exception, been buried.
45. But, as may easily be supposed, the support of this proposition, though mainly his object, does not hinder the consideration of other important truths. He was too wise to make himself the slave of his subject. From time to time, therefore, as he paused to give breathing time to the reader,for he required none himself,—other subordinate questions are introduced and discussed pleasantly; or, perhaps, Salmasius, then esteemed a giant in literature, is for sport-sake tossed round the ring on the horns of his merciless dilemmas. His mirth Doctor Johnson found to be grim and terrible. It is, in fact, the mirth of a man laughing at the downfal of arrogance and presumption—the mirth of the just at beholding the wicked caught in their own snares—the mirth which, by a daring licence of speech, the Psalmist attributes to the Almighty, whom he introduces rejoicing over the calamities of wrong doers, and saying, "I will laugh when their fear cometh.”
46. However, there are occasions on which Milton really unbends, and laughs heartily with the reader. Some expressions, also, are found scattered up and down the work, at which Phocion himself would have smiled, though, as I shall presently remark, sound taste must wholly condemn the employment of them in such a treatise. But the distinguishing characteristic of these productions is the spirit of religion and humanity which throughout pervades them. He would inspire in all men the deepest reverence for God their Father, and for each other that brotherly love, forbearance, charity, recommended by the precepts and example of Christ. Strife, tumult, contention, civil war, he overwhelms with abhorrence, inferior only to that which he pours upon tyranny, the parent of all the worst evils that afflict society. Properly to serve God, or perform his duties towards mortals, he maintains that man must be free to follow the dictates of his will, which is no other than reason in activity ; for the slave, that is, the subject of an absolute monarch, can never maintain that steadfast, unswerving perseverance in well-doing, which religion and civil wisdom require.
47. The faults into which, during these political controversies, Milton was precipitated by the vehemence of his passions, are precisely those which most easily beset ardent-tempered men. Demosthenes, contending against Philip and his hired
advocates, thinks no excess of vituperation too violent, no term of abuse too big for the mouth of his anger; and Milton, with equal genius, but inferior art, wields the same thunder, and with no less daring casts it in the astonished faces of all who oppose him. But he sometimes, as I have already hinted, exercises his power unskilfully. Hence, it must be admitted for I love truth still more than I love Milton-his language is in many places coarse and offensive, such as I read with pain, and sincerely wish away--that our great, and, save in this, almost perfect author, might be every thing the twin brother of Shakespeare in genius should be. But the reader will excuse my being brief on this subject; for I uncover the imperfections of Milton tremblingly and reverently, as I would those of a parent. His genius deeply partook of the prophetic character; and it is not for me, who have been soothed and strengthened from my childhood by the divine music of his verse, to come forward, and in the words I have learned of him, to babble of those failings from which no mortal is free.
48. From what has been said above, may be inferred, what were the prevailing opinions of Milton's age. Philosophy, ceasing to be speculative, applied itself to public business; and sought, by seizing the helm of government, to steer the ship of the Commonwealth, in the direction most agreeable to the wishes of all wise and good men. The records of ancient and modern times were ran. sacked, in the hope of discovering bints for the im
provement of society. Principles favourable to toleration were gradually established. Religion, greatly purified from the errors of the Roman church, began powerfully to influence the politics of the country, to operate a reform in anners, to raise and purify the character of its votaries. For the first time, perhaps, since the age of the apostles, Christianity was put in practice on a grand scale, by high-minded, disinterested men, who sought in earnest to lay the foundations of an evangelical commonwealth, modelled in harmony with the precepts of the gospel, such as no other age or country ever yet aimed at. The Puritans, in fact, were genuine Christians, the most perfect, perhaps, that, with the failings inherent in human nature, we can ever expect to see on earth. They united with the sincerest piety, and the fervent belief of all truth, a martial temper more stern and unbending than chivalry and knighthood ever inspired. Their courage was indomitable. Wise in council, adventurous and enthusiastic in the field, they were precisely the soldiers a great general would choose with which to subdue the world.
49. In the midst of this effervescence of the Christian spirit, bold philosophers and sophists arose, startling the world with the novelty, or evil tendency of their doctrines. Bacon had already made open war on the barren systems of the schools; and, while Europe was still admiring the grandeur and comprehensiveness of his views, Hobbes of Malmesbury appeared on the philoso