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Milton and the Puritan Dilelmma, 1641-1660

Milton and the Puritan Dilelmma, 1641-1660

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1942
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    Milton and the Puritan Dilelmma, 1641-1660
    Book Description:

    Professor Barker interprets Milton's development in the light of his personal problems and of the changing climate of opinion among his revolutionary associates.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5658-1
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Arthur Barker

    THIS study is based upon material embodied in a master’s thesis (“Milton and the Struggle for Liberty”) presented at the University of Toronto in 1934, and upon material embodied in a doctoral thesis (“Studies in the Background of Milton’s Prose”) presented at the University of London in 1937. A considerable amount of additional material has since been collected, and the whole has been recast and rewritten. It cannot be regarded as reproducing, even in part, the above theses; yet its publication enables me to record my gratitude to those who have assisted me at its various stages. I owe my...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    FEW subjects can be more interesting to the student of literature and of ideas than the development of a great poet’s opinions on society. The development of Milton’s opinions is especially interesting because of the concentration of his immense energy at a time of national crisis upon questions which are still of fundamental importance, though the terms in which they are expressed have changed. Yet the study of such a subject is attended with serious difficulties, intensified in Milton’s case by the unruliness of his energy when he wrote in prose, by the embittered complexity of the disputes he engaged...

  5. PART I Reformation and Liberty:: the Anti-Episcopal Pamphlets, 1641-1642

    • Chapter I Musical Chords
      (pp. 3-18)

      WHEN in August, 1639, Milton returned to England after more than a year of travel on the continent, the forces which had troubled the English church and state increasingly since the accession of James I were gathering themselves for the final conflict. Ahead lay twenty years of exhausting confusion. The effort of Charles and his bishops to impose episcopacy and the English liturgy on Presbyterian Scotland had resulted in the first so-called Bishops’ War, of which Milton had heard tidings in Naples; and the King’s discomfiture in the Treaty of Berwick had been witnessed with satisfaction by the critics of...

    • Chapter II The One Right Discipline
      (pp. 19-34)

      IN his retrospective account of his first pamphlets inDefensio Secunda, Milton half-unconsciously pointed to the dilemma which occupied a central place in Puritan thought throughout the revolution—the problem of the relationship between the reformation of the church and the establishment of liberty. The Puritan demand for church government after the manner of the “other reformed churches … and above all by the word of God,” led him to compose his attacks on episcopacy because it suggested “that men were in the right way to liberty; that, if discipline originating in religion continued its course to the morals and...

    • Chapter III Admirable and Heavenly Privileges
      (pp. 35-47)

      THE opening pages of Milton’s first pamphlet constitute a preface to the anti-episcopal tracts. He sketches in them his attitude towards the movement of reformation; he also gives expression to his belief in the peculiar pride which ought to be characteristic of every Christian. The “foul and sudden corruption” which befell the church in early times, made religion an external formality, so that the soul, “given up to fleshly delights, bated her wing apace downward.” Consequently, “to all the duties of evangelical grace, instead of the adoptive and cheerful boldness which our new alliance with God requires, came servile and...

    • Chapter IV That Intellectual Ray
      (pp. 48-60)

      CONSIDERING the tone on the one hand of Milton’s academic prolusions and on the other of his Areopagitica, it is remarkable that “the godlike power and force of the mind” receive in the anti-episcopal pamphlets such very scant attention.¹ If there is little in his Cambridge exercises which suggests the arguments of his writings ten years later, there is little in his first pamphlets which suggests the spirit of his eloquent defence of “free reasoning.” What he has to say of the dignity of the human reason is significant; it is also significant that he did not say more. Explanations...

  6. PART II Liberty and Conscience:: the Divorce Tracts, Areopagitica, Of Education, 1643-1645

    • Chapter V Closing up Truth to Truth
      (pp. 63-79)

      INDefensio SecundaMilton wrote that, when the bishops had been overthrown, he began to consider how he could “contribute to the progress of real and substantial liberty.” He turned his thoughts to the second of the “three species” of liberty, the domestic or private; “as this also appeared to be threefold, namely, whether the affair of marriage was rightly managed, whether the education of children was properly conducted, whether lastly we were to be allowed freedom of opinion,” he composed his pamphlets on divorce,Of Education, and theAreopagitica

      The processes of thought which issued in this second group...

    • Chapter VI The Voice of Reason
      (pp. 80-97)

      MILTON’S defence of the sects in theAreopagiticamarks his break with the orthodox Puritanism represented by the Assembly. It seemed to him that the Temple of the Lord was not being fashioned at Westminster but would rise through the “spiritual architecture” of what the uninspired regarded as “fantastic terrors of sects and schisms.” He no longer explained that these were the unhappy but inevitable effects of misgovernment. They testified to “the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and understanding which God hath stirred up in this city.” Unity was desirable, but a unity of spirit rather than of doctrine:...

    • Chapter VII Christian and Human Liberty
      (pp. 98-120)

      THE divorce problem imposed on Milton a valuable discipline; it forced him to define more clearly his essential principles. His tracts on this subject are consequently more than exercises in textual juggling, for the complicated exegesis which makes them less readable than theAreopagiticais necessary to a formulation of his views on the laws which govern the individual’s relation to his fellows and to God. InThe Doctrine and DisciplineandTetrachordon, his theology becomes more philosophical and less merely controversial than at any other point in his pamphleteering; and the argument of these carefully written works is in...

  7. PART III Liberty and Justice:: the Political Pamphlets, 1649-1654

    • Chapter VIII The End and Good of the Monarchy
      (pp. 123-133)

      THE author ofRegii Sanguinis Clamor Ad Coelumwrote more truly than he knew when he said that Milton “passed from the severing of marriages to the divorce of kingdoms.”¹ Though almost four years separatedThe Tenure of Kings and MagistratesfromTetrachordon, the political pamphlets did in fact apply to a larger field the ideas developed in the divorce tracts.²

      Milton chose to regard the writings between 1649 and 1654 as his contribution to the achievement of civil liberty; and it is true that he wrote nothing specifically on this last of the three species “till the King, pronounced...

    • Chapter IX Free by Nature
      (pp. 134-155)

      THE development of Milton’s political opinions between 1642 and 1649 cannot be traced in detail. The divorce tracts indicate the general movement of mind which eventually issued in his theory of political liberty; but his writings before 1649 contain remarkably few references to the theories of civil rights being developed by the parliamentarians, by more extreme divines like John Goodwin, and by the Levellers in the early stages of their activity.¹ That he was not without some interest in these matters is indicated by the comment he made on the analogy between marriage and allegiance used inScripture and Reason...

    • Chapter X The Good of the People
      (pp. 156-173)

      THROUGHOUTEikonoklastesand the defences Milton continued to justify the King’s execution by asserting the natural right of a people to freedom; but the agitations of Royalists, Presbyterians, Levellers, and Fifth Monarchists forced him to recognize that the Commonwealth and Protectorate were the work merely of a small though powerful party. The disintegration of the Puritan front was not altogether ignored inThe Tenure; yet if there were some apostates, Milton could still persuade himself that the acts of the Independent Rump and the triumphant parliamentary Army were approved by the people. He was reluctant to set aside the vision...

    • Chapter XI Real and Substantial Liberty
      (pp. 174-192)

      MILTON’S belief in the justice of the Commonwealth issued in the demand “not that our cause should be judged of by the event but the event by the cause.” Yet he could cite its success as an additional testimony, “for to the wicked God hath denounced ill success in all they take in hand.”¹ He perceived that the appeal to “the high and secret judgments of God” might be two-edged; and he could say in reply to the King that “most men are too apt, and commonly the worst of men, so to interpret and expound the judgments of God...

    • Chapter XII That Only Just and Rightful Kingdom
      (pp. 193-214)

      THE Leveller doctrines represent but one of the possible extensions of Puritan thought which created embarrassment for the Commonwealth and Protectorate. They depended either upon the naturalistic weakening of dogma which is only partially apparent in Milton’s thinking, or upon the strict segregation of the spiritual and the natural which he could not finally accept. But it was possible to arrive at a radical position by courses other than these; and—Presbyterians and Royalists apart—the chief threat to Cromwell’s rule actually came from the Fifth Monarchists, who occupied with the Levellers the Puritan left wing yet rejected the equality...

  8. PART IV The Spirit and Liberty:: the Final Pamphlets, 1659-1660

    • Chapter XIII A Far Surpassing Light
      (pp. 217-235)

      TO the revised edition of theDefensioin 1658, Milton added a statement of his satisfaction with a performance beneficial not only to England “but even to men of whatever nation, and to the cause of Christendom above all,” concluding with the assurance “that I am pursuing after yet greater things if my strength suffice (nay, it will if God grant), and for their sake meanwhile am taking thought and studying to make ready.”¹ Among those greater things is to be numbered the epic he must already have been contemplating; but the chief place in his mind was then occupied...

    • Chapter XIV Of Christian Liberty
      (pp. 236-259)

      IN the debates of the Council of Officers at Whitehall in December, 1648, on the reserve in religion to be included in theAgreement of the People, Colonel Sir Hardress Waller observed in exasperation “that it was the question, it is the question, and it will be the question to the ending of the world, whether the magistrate have any power at all in matters of religion, and what that power is.”¹ In spite of their apparent lucidity, Milton’s last ecclesiastical pamphlets provide for that enigma an answer no more conclusive than was reached in the Whitehall dispute which ranged...

    • Chapter XV The Main End of Government
      (pp. 260-290)

      IT was under the violent pressure of events that Milton composed the letters and pamphlets of the months immediately preceding the Restoration of Charles II and the final defeat of the effort to establish the holy community.¹ Since 1655 he had been living in comparative retirement because of his blindness; and if we are to judge from the tone of hisLetter to a Friendof October 20, 1659, he remained undisturbed by the confusion which followed Oliver’s death until this unknown person (perhaps Vane) acquainted him with “these dangerous ruptures” and urged him “to consider more intensely thereon than...

  9. PART V Principles of Liberty:: De Doctrina Christiana

    • Chapter XVI Knowledge in the Making
      (pp. 293-304)

      THROUGHOUT his controversial prose, in the pamphlets on political, no less than in those on religious and personal problems, the basic principles of Milton’s thought were provided by Christian doctrine. Christian theology was not for him of merely academic interest; nor did it concern only an unreal world separated from the present by death. It served to bring into ordered significance the lessons of a life full of intense experience. This experience resulted in a modification of the orthodox pattern at many points; but the explanation he sought at the end of the prose period found its formulation in terms...

    • Chapter XVII Of Christian Doctrine
      (pp. 305-330)

      MILTON engaged in his study of Christian doctrine principally because “it is only to the individual faith of each that the Deity has opened the way of eternal salvation.” Yet a second motive was provided by the fact that a true faith must contribute to “earthly comforts,” since “nothing else can so effectually rescue the lives and minds of men from those two detestable curses, slavery and superstition. …’”

      It is neither necessary nor possible to offer here anything like a complete examination of his theological opinions; attention must be concentrated only on those beliefs which had a direct bearing...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 331-334)

    MILTON’S treatment of the process of regeneration and its consequences was at once an exposition of the principles according to which his theory of liberty, religious, private, and civil, had been formulated, and a comment on the course of the revolution. The early 1640’s had seemed to him to mark the calling of the English people; and the effect of God’s offered grace had been to restore the nation, at least partially and for a time, to a sense of the freedom proper to a human and Christian society. Under the power of God’s assisting spirit, it had appeared to...

  11. Notes and Bibliography
    (pp. 335-428)
  12. Index
    (pp. 429-440)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 441-441)