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ON THE CHARACTER AND WRITINGS
A TREATISE ON CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, compiled from the Holy Scriptures alone. By JOHN MILTON. Translated from the Original, by Charles R. Sumner, M. A., Librarian and Historiographer to His Majesty, and Prebendary of Canterbury. From the London Edition. Boston, 1825. 2 vols. 8vo.
THE discovery of a work of Milton, unknown to his own times, is an important event in literary history. The consideration, that we of this age are the first readers of this Treatise, naturally heightens our interest in it; for we seem in this way to be brought nearer to the author, and to sustain the same relation which his contemporaries bore to his writings. The work opens with a salutation, which, from any other man, might be chargeable with inflation; but which we feel to be the natural and appropriate expression of the spirit of Milton. Endowed with gifts of the soul, which have been imparted to few of our race, and conscious of having consecrated them through life to God and mankind, he rose without effort or affectation to the
style of an Apostle :- "JOHN MILTON, TO ALL THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST, AND TO ALL WHO PROFESS THE CHRISTIAN FAITH THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, PEACE, AND THE RECOGNITION OF THE TRUTH, AND ÉTERNAL SALVATION IN GOD THE FATHER, AND IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST." Our ears are the first to hear this benediction, and it seems not so much to be borne to us from a distant age, as to come immediately from the sainted spirit, by which it was indited.
Without meaning to disparage the "Treatise on Christian Doctrine," we may say, that it owes very much of the attention, which it has excited, to the fame of its author. We value it chiefly as showing us the mind of Milton on that subject, which, above all others, presses upon men of thought and sensibility. We want to know in what conclusions such a man rested after a life of extensive and profound research, of magnanimous efforts for freedom and his country, and of communion with the most gifted minds of his own and former times. The book derives its chief interest from its author, and accordingly there seems to be a propriety in introducing our remarks upon it with some notice of the character of Milton. We are not sure that we could have abstained from this subject, even if we had not been able to offer so good an apology for attempting it. The intellectual and moral qualities of a great man are attractions not easily withstood; and we can hardly serve others or ourselves more, than by recalling to him the attention, which is scattered among inferior topics.
In speaking of the intellectual qualities of Milton, we may begin with observing, that the very splendor of