The Religious Life And Opinions Of John Milton -- By: A. D. Barber

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 016:63 (Jul 1859)
Article: The Religious Life And Opinions Of John Milton
Author: A. D. Barber


The Religious Life And Opinions Of John Milton

Rev. A. D. Barber

More biographies have been written of John Milton than of any other man that has lived in modern times; more perhaps than of any other man that has ever lived. Mr. Reed, in 1841, enumerated no less than twenty-five. Three are known to the author to have appeared since. These biographies are tinctured with every variety and shade of opinion, poetical, political, moral, and theological. They have, as Mr. Reed says, “issued from the pens of poets, of antiquaries, of divines, of scholars, of painters, from Churchmen and Dissenters, from Infidels, from the heightened Aristocrat, the Whig, and the Chartist.”

Besides the biographers there have been hosts of critics

and commentators, as diverse in character and fitness for their work as it is possible for men to be. They have left us a medley, — a hash, in which, if it be difficult to find the truth, it is not at all difficult to find something to gratify every variety of taste, and confirm every diversity of opinion.

“If a man would set himself down,” says Arch-Deacon Blackburne, in Hollis’s Memoirs, “to devise one of the highest entertainments his imagination could furnish, he could not succeed better, if he was a man of genius and judgment, than in exhibiting a conversation between Shakspeare and Milton, in the shades, on the operations of their several critics and commentators. What infinite pleasantry would arise from their several observations! Shakspeare would appear in as mangeld a condition as Deiphobus; Milton’s wounds might perhaps be counted:

Bis sex thoraca petitum
Perfossumque locis,

but would amount to ten times the number of those of Mezentius.” [Hollis’s Memoirs, vol. II., p. 532, 4to. Lond. 1780.]

It is not our purpose to criticise the critics, or clear up the contradictions of the commentators. This we shall do only so far as to show how some of the erroneous opinions that are now entertained concerning Milton, have come to prevail, and to bring out what Milton himself held on some fundamental subjects in theology and religion, — particularly the doctrines of the Trinity, and the Persons in the Godhead. If in doing this we are compelled to dissent from, and convict of error, any of the great and good men, who in real affection and veneration of Milton, have endeavored to hold him up for the world’s admiration, this we sincerely regret. “We could find no pleasure,” to use the fine figure of Dr. Channing, “in sacrificing one great name to the manes of another.” Nor do we wish to be thought so vain as “to stretch to the tiptoe height of our small stature to ...

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