Second Paper Assignment
Pick one of the longer poems we’ve read this term (On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, Lycidas or Comus [A Mask]), and use two of the following excerpts to elucidate its poetic argument. One of those texts must be from Milton’s prose or poetry, and you should emphasize it in your discussion (you can always use a poem to explain another poem). Remember that in every instance, what you are analyzing and expounding is Milton’s irony–his idea of the dialectical way experience/words mean in a world governed by a Deus abscondita sub contrario, ‘God concealed under his contrary.’ Thus you are explaining how we should understand a world where, as the Areopagitica contends, truth belongs to the category of res non apparentes, “things that do no appear” as such, and where these things cannot be known by analogy to their superficial appearances. That order of expression or interpretation would be idolatrous. For at the same time, Milton is poet, he is an iconoclast—a breaker of images—for whom meaning is to be found not in likeness but in difference or incongruity.
Irony is the method by which he reconciles these seemingly antipathetic positions and practices, that is, his idea of meaning with the peculiarly imagistic language of poetry. Inevitably, then, you are distinguishing the peculiar sort of allegory promoted by Milton’s ‘theological grammar’ (see Some Further Remarks of Luther in your syllabus packet). Remember that it is unlike other allegorical modes or understandings which argue a likeness or analogy between the visible (words as a medium evoking images in the mind) and the invisible (the meaning ultimately conveyed by those words/images). The magical thinking of the Malleus Maleficarum of course epitomizes such allegories, and the sort of symbolic interpretation that Milton resists as idolatrous.
By contrast, Miltonic allegory is self-reflexive: its anomalies and incongruities of argument and expression throw us and Milton’s speakers back upon those assumptions of meaning which intrude between us and an understanding of deity’s intention or will. In doing so, we are invited to revise how we think the creator is expressed in his creation, how God is made present in the world, and how Miltonic meaning is expressed in his poetry. Remember Luther’s point that we make God (facere Deum) by the character of our faith. So the speakers in Milton’s poetry reveal themselves by the kind of God they find in their experience.
Your analysis itself should address the formal details of your texts as they apply to this problem. So keep in mind the motive and position of speaker, whether a poetic fiction or Milton writing in his own voice in the prose; how that position is expressed in the detailed shape of language (figures including analogy, allegory or myth; use of poetic convention; verse pattern including meter and rhyme if pertinent; syntax including inverted word order–see the handouts on rhetorical and poetic); the order of meaning or understanding observed by the speaker; if and how it is ironized, and to what purpose.
In the selection of your texts, you are using one to explain the argument of the other, viz. the prose of the Malleus, Luther or Milton to explain Milton, his poetry OR his prose. Almost always, Milton will be arguing about the way truth/meaning/deity are revealed in the world. And in his view, we ourselves in our assumptions, prejudices and passions are frequently the greatest obstacle to the knowledge of religious things. Calvin says that in order to know God, one must know oneself; and that in order to know oneself, one must know God. So Milton’s writings perpetually debate how (not) to go about achieving such knowledge. To that extent, his speakers in the poetry are frequently flawed knowers because they suffer from varying degrees of faithlessness.
The paper should be a minimum of 10 pages long, following standard format (see the syllabus). If you don’t have the minimum number of pages, you have not adequately demonstrated your thesis: you need to quote and analyze more. Cite line and page numbers in parentheses. Please do not use secondary sources, only your wits or mine.
Buena suerte, Vaya con Dios, and also Hony soyt qui mal pense (“Shame to him that thinks ill of it”).
- It has indeed lately come to Our ears, not without afflicting Us with bitter sorrow, that in some parts of Northern Germany . . . many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi, succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pastureland, corn, wheat, and all other cereals; these wretches furthermore afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, whence husbands cannot know their wives nor wives receive their husbands; over and above this, they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of Mankind they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses to the deadly peril of their souls, whereby they outrage the Divine Majesty and are a cause of scandal and danger to very many. (Bull of Pope Innocent VIII, Malleus Maleficarum)
- Now the Theologians have ascribed to [devils] certain qualities, as that they are unclean spirits, yet not by very nature unclean. For according to Dionysius there is in them a natural madness, a rabid concupiscence, a wanton fancy, as is seen from their spiritual sins of pride, envy, and wrath. For this reason they are the enemies of the human race: rational in mind, but reasoning without words; subtle in wickedness, eager to do hurt; ever fertile in fresh deceptions, they change the perceptions and befoul the emotions of men, they confound the watchful, and in dreams disturb the sleeping; they bring diseases, stir up tempests, disguise themselves as angels of light, bear Hell always about them; from witches they usurp to themselves the worship of God, and by this means magic spells are made; they seek to get a mastery over the good and molest them to the most of their power; to the elect they are given as a temptation, and always they lie in wait for the destruction of men. (Malleus Maleficarum)
- But the natural reason that [women are more likely to be witches than men] is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were n a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives. For Cato says: When a woman weeps she weaves snares. And again: When a woman weeps, she labours to deceive a man. And this is shown by Samson’s wife who coaxed him to tell her the riddle he had propounded to the Philistines, and told them the answer, and so decived him. And it is clear in the case of the first woman that she had little faith; for when the serpent asked why they did not eat of every tree in Paradise, she answered: Of every tree, etc.–lest perchance we should die. Thereby she showed that she doubted, and had little faith in the word of God. And all this is indicated by the etymology of the word; for Femina comes from Fe and Minus, since she is ever weaker to hold and preserve the faith. And this as regards faith is of her very nature; although both by grace and nature faith never failed in the Blessed Virgin, even at the time of Christ’s passion, when it failed in all men. (Malleus Maleficarum)
- These charms or fascinations seem capable of division into three kinds. First, the senses are deluded, and this may truly be done by magic, that is to say, by the power of the devil, if God permit it. And the sense may be enlightened by the power of good angels. Secondly, fascination may bring about a certain glamour and a leading astray, as when the apostle says: Who hath bewitched you? Galatians iii, I. In the third place, there may be a certain fascination cast by the eyes over another person, and this may be harmful or bad.
And it is of this fascination that Avicenna and Al-Gazali have spoken; S. Thomas too thus mentions this fascination . . . . For he says the mind of a man may be changed by the influence of another mind. And that influence which is exerted over another often proceeds from the eyes, for in the eyes a certain subtle influence may be concentrated. For the eyes direct their glance upon a certain object without taking notice of other things, and although the vision be perflectly clear, yet at the sight of some impurity, such as, for example, a woman during her monthly periods, the eyes will as it were contract a certain impurity. (Malleus Maleficarum)
- And as to this third method, it is to be noted that the devil has five ways in which he can delude anyone so that he thinks a thing to be other than it is. First, by an artificial trick, as has been said; for that which a man can do by art, the devil can do even better. Second, by a natural method, by the application, as has been said, and interposition of some substance so as to hide the true body, or by confusing it in man’s fancy. The third way is when in an assumed body he presents himself as being something which he is not; as witness the story which S. Gregory tells in his First Dialogue of a Nun, who ate a lettuce, which, however, as the devil himself confessed, was not a lettuce, but the devil in the form of a lettuce, or in the lettuce itself. . . . The fourth method is when he confuses the organ of sight, so that a clear thing seems hazy, or the converse, or when an old woman appears to be a young girl. For even after weeping the light appears different from what it was before. His fifth method is by working in the imaginative power, and, by a disturbance of the humours, effecting a transmutation in the forms perceived by the senses, as has been treated of before, so that the senses then perceive as it were fresh and new images. And accordingly, by the last three of these methods, and even by the second, the devil can cast a glamour over the senses of a man. Wherefore there is no difficulty in his concealing the virile member by some prestige or glamour. (Malleus Maleficarum)
- [But true Christian theology, as I often warn you, does not present God to us in His majesty, as Moses and other teachings do, but Christ born of the Virgin as our Mediator and High Priest. Therefore when we are embattled against the Law, sin, and death in the presence of God, nothing is more dangerous than to stray into heaven with our idle speculations, there to investigate God in His incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty, to ask how He created the world and how He governs it. If you attempt to comprehend God in this way and want to make atonement to Him apart from Christ the Mediator, making your works, fasts, cowl, and tonsure the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall, as Lucider did (Is.14.12), and in horrible despair lose God and everything. For as in His own nature God is immense, incomprehensible, and infinite, so to man’s nature He is intolerable.] (A different edition of Luther’s Commentary on Galatians)
- [To attribute glory to God is to believe in Him, to regard Him as truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and almighty, in short, to acknowledge Him as the Author and Donor of every good. Reason does not do this, but faith does. It consummates the Deity; and, if I may put it this way, it is the creator of the Deity [creatrix Divinitatis], not in the substance of God but in us. For without faith God loses His glory, wisdom, righteousness, truthfulness, mercy, etc., in us, in short; God has none of his majesty or divinity where faith is absent. . . . Therefore faith justifies because it renders to God what is due Him; whoever does this is righteous. The laws also define what it means to be righteous in this way: to render to each what is his. For faith speak as follows: “I believe Thee, God, when thou dost speak.” What does God say? Things that are impossible, untrue, foolish, weak, absurd, abominable, heretical, and diabolical–if you consult reason. For what is more ridiculous, foolish, and impossible than when God says to Abraham that he is to get a son from the body of Sarah, which barren and already dead?] (A different edition of Luther’s Commentary on Galatians)
- [. . . faith’s object is things not seen [res non apparentes]. That there may be room for faith, therefore, all that is believed must be hidden. Yet it is not hidden more deeply than under a contrary appearance of sight, sense and experience. Thus, when God quickens, He does so by killing; when He justifies, He does so by pronouncing guilty; when He carries up to heaven, He does so by bringing down to hell. . . . Thus God conceals His eternal mercy and lovingkindness beneath eternal wrath, His righteousness beneath unrighteousness. Now, the highest degree of faith is to believe that He is merciful, though He saves so few and damns so many; to believe that He is just, though of His own will He makes us perforce proper subjects for damnation, and seems (in Erasmus’ words) ‘to delight in the torments of poor wretches and to be a fitter object for hate than for love.’ If I could by any means understand how this same God, who makes such a show of wrath and unrighteousness, can yet be merciful and just, there would be no room for the exercise of faith. But as it is, the impossibility of understanding makes room for the exercise of faith when these things are preached and published; just as, when God kills, faith in life is exercised in death.] (A different edition of Luther’s Bondage of the Will)
- [It is not given to the secular and unregenerate man to see this, but only to the spiritual man. He alone can distinguish the position from the Word, the divine mask [larva] from God Himself and the work of God. Until now we have dealt only with the veiled God, for in this life we cannot deal with God face to face. Now the whole creation is a face or mask of God. But here we need the wisdom that distinguished God from His mask. The world does not have this wisdom. Therefore it cannot distinguish God from His mask.
. Therefore Paul is correct in calling it the evil world: for when it is at its best, then it is at its worst. The world is at its best in men who are religious, wise, and learned; yet in them it is actually evil twice over . . . . This white devil, who transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor.11.14)–he is the real devil.
Here let us learn to recognize the tricks and craft of the devil. A heretic does not come with the label ‘error’ or ‘devil’ nor does the devil himself come in the form of a devil, especially not that ‘white devil’. . . . where Satan emerges not black but white, in the guise of an angel or even of God himself, there is puts himself forward with very sly pretense and amazing tricks.
Therefore Paul regards it as a sure sign that what is being preached is not the Gospel if the preaching goes on without its peace being disturbed. On the other hand, the world regards it as a sure sign that the Gospel is a heretical and seditious doctrine when it sees that the preaching of the Gospel is followed by great upheavals, disturbances, offenses, sects, etc. Thus God wears the mask of the devil, and the devil wears the mask of God; God wants to be recognized under the mask of the devil, and He wants the devil to be condemned under the mask of God.] (A different edition of Luther’s Commentary on Galatians)
- But this most excellent righteousness, of faith I mean (which God through Christ, without works, imputeth unto us), is neither political nor ceremonial, nor the righteousness of God’s law, nor consisteth in our works, but is clean contrary: that is to say, a mere passive righteousness, as the other above are active. For in this we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but only we receive and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God. Therefore it seemeth good unto me to call this righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness, the passive righteousness. . . . But man’s weakness and misery is so great, that in the terrors of conscience and dangers of death, we behold nothing else but our works, our worthiness and the law: which when it sheweth unto us our sin, by and by our evil life cometh to remembrance. Then the poor sinner with great anguish of spirit groaneth, and thus thinketh with himself: ‘Alas! How desperately have I lived! Would to God I might live longer: then would I amend my life.’ Thus man’s reason cannot restrain itself from the sight and beholding of this active or working righteousness, that is to say, her own righteousness; nor lift up her eyes to the beholding of the passive or Christian righeousness, but resteth altogether in the active righteousness: so deeply is this evil rooted in us. (Luther, Commentary on Galatians)
- And here we are altogether in another world, far from reason, where we dispute not what we ought to do, or with what works we may deserve grace and forgiveness of sins; but we are in a matter of most high and heavenly divinity, where we do hear this Gospel or glad tidings, that Christ died for us, and that we, believing this, are counted righteousness, though sins notwithstanding do remain in us, and that great sins. . . .
Thus a Christian is righteous and a sinner at the same time [simul iustus et peccator], holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. None of the sophists will admit this paradox, because they do not understand the true meaning of justification. (Luther, Commentary on Galatians)
- Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labor to cull out and sort asunder, were not more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted, that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together leaped forth in the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil; that is to say, of knowing good by evil.
As therefore the state of man now is; what wisdom can there be to choose, what continence to forbear, without the knowledge of evil? He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true warfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloised virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. (Areopagitica)
- First therefore let us remember, as a thing not to be denied, that all places of scripture, wherein just reason of doubt arises from the letter, are to be expounded by considering upon what occasion everything is set down, and by comparing other texts. The occasion, which induced our Saviour to speak of divorce, was either to convince the extravagance of the pharisees in that point, or to give a sharp and vehement answer to a tempting question. And in such cases, that we are not to repose all upon the literal terms of so many words, many instances will teach us: wherein we may plainly discover how Christ meant not to be taken word for word, but like a wise physician, administering one excess against another to reduce us to a perfect mean: where the pharisees were strict, there Christ seems remiss; where they were too remiss, he saw it needful to seem most severe. . . . (Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce)
- If sects and schisms be turbulent in the unsettled estate of a church, while it lies under the amending hand, it best beseems our Christian courage to think they are but as the throes and pangs that go before the birth of reformation, and that the work itself is now in doing. For if we look but on the nature of elemental and mixed things, we know they cannot suffer any change of one kind or quality into another, without the struggle of contrarieties. And in things artificial, seldom any elegance is wrought withouta superfluous waste and refuse in the transaction. No marble statue can be politely carved, no fair edifice built, without almost as much rubbish and sweeping. Insomuch that even in the spiritual conflict of St. Paul’s conversion, there fell scales from his eyes, that were not perceived before. No wonder then in the reforming of a church, which is never brought to effect without the fierce encounter of truth and falsehood together. . . . (Reason of Church Government)
- For who knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty; she needs no policies, nor strategems, nor licensings to make her victorious; those are the shifts and the defences that error uses against her power: give her but room, and do not bind her when she sleeps, for then she speaks not true, as the old Proteus did, who spake oracles only when he was caught and bound, but then rather she turns herself into all shapes except her own, and perhaps tunes her voice according to the time, as Micaiah did before Ahab, until she be adjured into her own likeness.
Yet is it not impossible that she may have more shapes than one? What else is all that rank of things indifferent, wherein truth may be on this side, or on the other, without being unlike herself? (Areopagitica)
- Yet these are the men cried out against for schismatics and sectaries; as if, while the temple of the Lord was building, some cutting, some squaring the marble, others hewing the cedars, there should be a sort of irrational men who could not consider there must be many schisms and many dissections made in the quarry and in the timber, ere the house of God can be built. And when every stone is laid artfully together, it cannot be united into a continuity, it can but be contiguous in this world; neither can every piece of the building be of one form; nay rather the perfection consists in this, that out of many moderate varieties and brotherly dissimilitudes that are not vastly disproportional, arises the goodly and the graceful symmetry that commends the whole pile and structure. (Areopagitica)
- For truth, I know not how, hath this unhappiness fatal to her, ere she can come to the trial and inspection of the understanding; being to pass through many little wards and limits of the several affections and desires, she cannot shift it, but must put on such colors and attire as those pathetic handmaids of the soul please to lead her in to their queen: and if she find so much favor with them, they let her pass in her own likeness; if not, they bring her into the presence habited and colored like a notorious falsehood. And contrary, when any falsehood comes that way, if the like the errand she brings, they are so artful to counterfeit the very shape and visage of truth, that the understanding not being able to discern the fucus which these enchantresses with such cunning have laid upon the feature sometimes of truth, sometimes of falsehood interchangeably, sentences for the most part one for the other at the first blush, according to the subtle imposture of these sensual mistresses, that keep the ports and passages between her and the object. (The Reason of Church Government)
- Albeit I must confess to be half in doubt whether I should bring it forth or no, it being so contrary to the eye of the world, and the world so potent in most men’s hearts, that I shall endanger either not to be regarded, or not to be understood; for who is there almost that measures wisdom by simplicity, strength by suffering, dignity by lowliness? Who is there that counts it first to be last, something to be nothing, and reckons himself of great command in that he is a servant? Yet God, when he meant to subdue the world and hell at once, part of that to salvation, and this wholly to perdition, made choice of no other weapons or auxiliaries than these, whether to save or to destroy. It had been a small mastery for him to have drawn out his legions into array, and flanked them with his thunder; therefore he sent foolishness to confute wisdom, weakness to bind strength, despisedness to vanquish pride; and this is the great mystery of the gospel made good in Christ himself, who, as he testifies, came not to be ministered to, but to minister; and must be fulfilled in all his ministers till his second coming. . . .Neither shall I stand to trifle with one that would tell me of quiddities and formalities, whether prelaty or prelateity, in abstract notion be this or that; it suffices me that I find it in his skin, so I find it inseparable, or not oftener otherwise than a phoenix hath been seen. . . . First, therefore, if to do the work of the gospel, Christ our Lord took upon him the form of a servant, how can his servant in this ministry take upon him the form of a lord? . . . . but this be not so compliment us out of our right minds, as to be to learn that the forms of a servant was a mean, laborious, and vulgar life, aptest to teach; which form Christ thought fittest, that he might bring about his will according to his own principles, choosing the meaner things of this world, that he might put under the high. (The Reason of Church Government)
- L’Allegro/ Il Penseroso
- On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity
- Sonnets “How soon hath time” and “When I consider how my light is spent”
the opening speech and subsequent behavior of the Attendant Spirit;
the Attendant Spirit’s description of Comus and Comus’ subsequent behavior;
Comus’ response to the sight and sound of the Lady
the Elder Brother’s exposition of chastity;
the position of the Lady in Comus’ chair and Sabrina’s extraction of her;
the debate on Nature between Comus and the Lady.
- So had the image of God been equally common to them both, it had no doubt been said, “In the image of God created he them.” But St. Paul ends the controversy, by explaining, that the woman is not primarily and immediately the image of God but in reference to the man. . . . Nevertheless man is not to hold her as a servant, but received her into a part of that empire which God proclaims him to, though not equally, yet largely as his own image and glory: for it is no small glory to him, that a creature so like him should be made subject to him. Not but that particular exceptions may have place, if she exceed her husband in prudence and dexterity, and he contentedly yield: for then another law comes in, that the wiser should govern the less wise, whether male or female. (Tetrachordon)
- And what his chief end was of creating woman to be joined with man, his own instituting words declare, and are infallible to inform us what is marriage, and waht is no marriage; unless we can think them set there to no purpose: “It is not good,” saith he, “that man should be alone. I will make a help meet for him.” From which words, so plain, less cannot be concluded, nor is by an learned interpreter, than that in God’s intention a meet and happy conversation is the chiefest end of marriage: for we find here no expression so necessarily implying carnal knowledge, as this prevention of loneliness to the mind and spirit of man. . . . And with all generous persons married thus it is, that where the mind and person pleases aptly, there some unaccomplishment of the body’s delight may be better borne with, than when the mind hangs off in an unclosing disproportion, though the body be as it ought; for there all corporal delight will soon become unsavory and contemptible. And the solitariness of man, which God had named and principally ordered to prevent by marriage, hath no remedy, but lies under a worse condition than the loneliest single life: for in single life the absence and remoteness of a helper might inure him to expect his own comforts out of himself, or to seek with hope; but here the continual sight of his deluded thoughts, without cure, must needs be to him, if especially his complexion incline him to melancholy, a daily trouble and pain of loss, in some degree like that reprobates feel. (Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce)
- . . . he who hath obtained in more than the scantiest measure to know anything distinctly of God, and of his true worship, and what is infallibly good and happy in the state of man’s life, what in itself evil and miserable, though vulgarly not so esteemed; he that hath obtained to know this, the only high valuable wisdom indeed, remembering also that God, even to a strictness, requires the improvement of these his intrusted gifts, cannot but sustain a sorer burden of mind, and more pressing, than any supportable toil or weight which the body can labor under, how and in what manner he shall dispose and employ those sums of knowledge and illumination, which God hath sent him into this world to trade with. And that which aggravates the burden more, is, that, having received amongst his allotted parcels certain precious truths, of such an orient lustre as no diamond can equal, which nevertheless he has in charge to put off at any cheap rate, yea, for nothing to them that will; the great merchants of this world, fearing that this course would soon discover and disgrace the false glitter of their deceitful wares, wherewith they abuse the people, like poor Indians with beads and glasses, practise by all means how they may suppress the vending of such rarities, and such a cheapness as would undo them, and turn their trash upon their hands. Therefore by gratifying the corrupt desires of men in fleshly doctrines, they stir them up to persecute with hatred and contempt all those that seek to bear themselves uprightly in this their spiritual factory. . . . (The Reason of Church Government)
- Many there be that complain of divine Providence for suffering Adam to transgress. Foolish tongues! when God gave him reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing; he had been else a mere artificial Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions. We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of force; God therefore left him free, set before him a provoking object ever almost in his eyes; herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence. Wherefore did he create passions within us, pleasures round about us, but that these rightly tempered are the very ingredients of virtue? They are not skilful considerers of human things, who imagine to remove sin, by removing the matter of sin. . . . Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercised in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste, that came not thither so: such great care and wisdom is required to the right managing of this point.
Suppose we could expell sin by this means; look how much we thus expell of sin, so much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them both is the same: remove that, and ye remove them both alike. This justifies the high providence of God, who, though he command us temperance, justice, continence, yet pours our before us even to a profuseness all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety. Why should we then affect a rigor contrary to the manner of God and of nature, by abridging or scanting those means, which books freely permitted, are both to the trail of virtue, and the exercise of truth? (Areopagitica)
- Doth not Christ himself teach the highest things by the similitude of old bottles and patched clothes? Doth he not illustrate best things by things most evil? His own coming to be as a thief in the night, and the righteous man’s wisdom to that of an unjust steward? . . . . Thus did the true prophets of old combat with the false; thus Christ himself, the fountain of meekness, found acrimony enough to be still galling and vexing the prelatical phraisees. But ye will say, these had immediate warrant from God to be thus bitter; and I say, so much the plainlier is it proved, that there may be a sanctified bitterness against the enemies of truth. Yet that ye may not think inspiration only the warrant thereof, but that it is as any other virtue, of moral and general observation, the example of Luther may stand for all, whom God made choice of before others to be of highest eminence and power in reforming the church; who, not of revelation, but of judgment, writ so vehemently against the chief defenders of old untruths in the Romish church, that his own friends and favorers were many times offended with the fierceness of his spirit. . . . (An Apology for Smectymnuus)
- Another reason which he brings for liturgy, is “the preserving of order, unity, and piety;” and the same shall be my reason against liturgy. For I, reader, shall always be of this opinion, that obedience to the Spirit of God, rather than to the fair seeming pretences of men, is the best and most dutiful order that a Christian can observe. If the Spirit of God manifest the gift of prayer in his minister, what more seemly order in the congregation than to go along with that man in our devoutest affections? For him to abridge himself by reading, and to forestall himself in those petitions, which he must either omit, or vainly repeat, when he comes into the pulpit under a show of order, is the greatest disorder. . . .Lastly, it hinders piety rather than sets it foward, being more apt to weaken the spiritual faculties, if the people be not weaned from it in due time; as the daily pouring in of hot waters quenches the natural heat. For not only the body and the mind, but also the improvement of God’s Spirit, is quickened by using. . . .These inconveniences and dangers follow the compelling of set forms. . . . (An Apology)
- Thus at length we see, both by this and by other places, that there is scarce any one saying the gospel but must be read with limitations and distinctions to be rightly understood; for Christ gives no full comments or continued discourses, but (as Demetrius the rhetorician phrases it) speaks oft in monosyllables, like a master scattering the heavenly grain of his doctrine like pearl here and there, which requires a skilful and laborious gatherer, who must compare the words he finds with other precepts, with the end of every ordinance, and with the general analogy of evangelic doctrine: otherwise many particular sayings would be but strange repugnant riddles. . . . (Doctrine and Discipline)
- To conclude, as without charity God hath given no commandment to men, so without it neither can men rightly believe any commandment given. For every act of true faith, as well as that whereby we believe the law as that whereby we endeavor the law, is wrought in us by charity, according to that divine hymn of St.Paul, 1 Cor.xiii., “Charity believeth all things;” not as if she were so credulous, which is the exposition hitherto current, for that were to a trivial praise, but to teach us that charity is the high governess of our belief, and that we cannot safely assent to any precept written in the Bible, but as charity commends it to us. Which agrees with that of the same apostle to the Eph.iv. 14, 15; where he tell us, that the way to get a sure undoubted knowledge of things, is to hold that for truth which accords most with charity. (Doctrine and Discipline)
- We cannot, therefore, always be contemplative or pragmatical abroad, but have need of some delightful intermissions, wherein the enlarged soul may leave off a while her sever schooling, and, like a glad youth in wandering vacancy, may keep her holidays to joy and harmless pastime; which as she cannot well do without company, so in no company so well as where the different sex in most resembling unlikeness, and most unlike resemblance cannot be please best, and be pleased in the aptitude of that variety. (Tetrachordon)
- In the meanwhile, if any one would write and bring his helpful hand to the slow-moving reformation which we labor under, if truth have spoken to him to him before others, or but seemed at least to speak, whohath so bejesuited us that we should trouble that man with asking license to do so worthy a deed. And not consider this, that if it come to prohibiting , there is not aught more likely to be prohibited than truth itself; whose first appearance to our eyes bleared and dimmed with prejudice and custom, is more unsightly and unplausible than many errors, even as the person is of many a great man slight and contemptible to see to. And what do they tell us vainly of new opinions, when this very opinion of theirs, that none must be heard but whom they like, is the worst and newest opinion of all others; and is the chief cause why sects and schisms do so much abound, and true knowledge is kept at a distance from us; besides a greater danger which is in it. For when God shakes a kingdom with strong and healthful commotions to a general reforming, it is not untrue that many sectaries and false teachers are then busiest in seducing; but yet more true it is that God then raises to his own work men of rare abilities and more than common industry, not only to look back and revise what hath been taught heretofore, but to gain further and go on some new enlightened steps in the discovery of truth.
For such is the order of God’s enlightening his church, to dispense and deal out by degrees his beam, so as our earthly eyes may best sustain it. Neither is God appointed and confined, where and out of what place these his chosen shall be first heard to speak: for he sees not as men sees, chooses not as man chooses, let we should devote ourselves to set places and assemblies and outward callings of men. . . . (Areopagitica)
- And certainly discipline is not only the removal of disorder; but if any visible shape can be given to divine things, the very visible shape and imae of virtue, whereby she is not only seen in the regular gestures and motions of her heavenly paces as she walks, but also make the harmony of her voice audible to mortal ears. Yea, the angels themselves, in whom no disorder is feared, as the apostle that saw them in his rapture describes, are distinguished and quarternioned into their celestial princetons and satrapies, according as God himself hath writ his imperial decrees through the great provinces of heaven. The state also of the blessed in paradise, though never so perfect, is not therefore left without discipline, whose golden surveying reed marks out and measure every quarter and circuit of New Jerusalem. Yet is it not to be conceived that those eternal effluences of sanctity and love in the glorified saints should by this means be confined and cloyed with repetition of that which is prescribed, but that our happiness may orb itself into a thousand vagancies of glory and delight, and with a kind of eccentrical equation be, as it were, an invariable planet of joy and felicity; how much less can we believe that God would leave his frail and feeble, though not less beloved church here below, to the perpetual stumble of conjecture and disturbance in this our dark voyage, without the card and compass of discipline? Which is so hard to be of man’s making that we may see even in the guidance of a civil state to worldly happiness, it is not for every learned or every wise man, though many of them consult in common, to invent or frame a discipline: but if it be at all the work of man, it must be of such a one as is a true knower of himself, and himself in whom contemplation and practice, wit, prudence, fortitude, and eloquence must be rarely met, both to comprehend the hidden causes of things and span in his thoughts all the various effects that passion and complexion can work in man’s nature; and hereto must his hand be at defiance with gain, and his heart in all virtues heroic. (Reason of Church Government)