« VorigeDoorgaan »
When at last Hans gains speech with his old love, it is no gentle-eyed Lieserl who confronts him, but a stern-faced Elizabeth, with a hard line about her mouth and something like hate in her eyes. In answer to his passionate appeal he hears terrible truths. She will have none of this tardy atonement; nor will she, for his sake, desert the man who, without any claims of the flesh, has fulfilled towards their child those fatherly duties which he himself has so shamefully neglected—the man whom she reveres as a saint.
Then Elizabeth straightened herself. So you think that I will go away with you--now? That I will abandon the only man who has ever sacrificed himself for us-leave him alone-and ill ? Anyone who could think that - She could not get the hard word to cross her lips.
Hans turns away, cowed at last by her merciless hardness, and Elizabeth, having watched him out of sight, falls sobbing upon a stone.
Before night a snowstorm sweeps over the mountains, and the household anxiously await the return of the young priest, who is scouring the neighbourhood, in search of struggling wayfarers. He returns after dark, with his cloak frozen on to his jacket; and five days later Hans and Elizabeth are kneeling, one on each side of his bed. “If only I had not to miss my service !'he moans; then looks from one to the other : ‘Be sensible-because of the boy!'
Then softly he drew her hand on to his breast and then his. "Stay by me. Say a prayer. After all, to die?--he paused, struggling for breath, 'to die is also a service.'
That much could be heard. Then convulsively he drew the two hands closer, and breathed heavily, and breathed painfully, and breathed no more. It was the end.
And when it was over, and Hans and Elizabeth awoke from their stupor, they found that upon his motionless breast, their two hands lay clasped.
I do not think that any reader of Die Beiden Hänse will consider that the name of Peter Rosegger, though old of sound, has cause to hide itself before the most brilliant of new names. In the midst of the desert of pessimism in which we wander nowadays, it is something to find an observer of life who does not despair of human nature.
(MADAME LONGARD DE LONGGARDE). Vienna.
THE THEOLOGY OF MILTON
The influence of Milton, through his writings in prose and poetry, upon Christian theological belief in England and in the Englishspeaking world is one of the strangest paradoxes in literary history. For he was almost the last person who might have been expected to control or direct the thought of Christians within, as well as without, the Church of England. He was estranged by wide differences of belief and practice from the great body of his Christian fellow-countrymen. He was neither a Churchman nor an Episcopalian. What were his views of Episcopal Government is only too well known from his treatise Of Prelatical Episcopacy, from his Reason of Church-government urged against Prelaty, and from his Animadversions upon the Remonstrants' Defence against Smectymnuus. It is true indeed, as this article will, I hope, show, that Milton was not always con
І sistent in his theological or ecclesiastical position. But his treatise Of Christian Doctrine is gufficient evidence of the conclusions to which he was gradually led upon the main articles of the Christian Faith. He was not an orthodox Trinitarian in his doctrine relating either to the Second or to the Third Person of the Sacred Trinity. He was not a believer in the independent life of the soul apart from the body, or in the life of the soul at all between death and resurrection. In his estimate of matter he came at times perilously near to Pantheism. He decisively rejected infant baptism; he was opposed on principle to Liturgies and all set forms of prayer. He was an advocate of divorce, and in certain circumstances of polygamy. He was an anti-Sabbatarian, and at the last he was almost an alien from the rules and practices of Christianity. Toland says of him : 'In the latter part of his life he was not a professed member of any particular sect among Christians; he frequented none of their assemblies, nor made use of their peculiar rites in his family.' It is not altogether easy to define Milton's theological or ecclesiastical position ; but he seems to have drifted surely, if slowly, away from orthodox or established Christianity into a Christian belief and habit of his own. Masson, speaking of his heterodoxy, says : ‘His drift may have begun about 1643, when he changed his temporary VOL. LXXI-No. 423 901
Presbyterianism or semi-Presbyterianism in Church-government for Independency or Congregationalism, breaking off from the Presbyterians and associating himself rather with the freer Independent and miscellaneous sects in the interest of his special Divorce controversy.''
Yet Milton, in spite of his theological errors or eccentricities, has by his writings produced a strong and lasting, if not altogether happy, effect upon the mind of English-speaking Christendom. It is he more than anyone else who is responsible for the literal acceptance of the early narratives in the Book of Genesis. The story of the Garden of Eden is so lightly touched by the author of Genesis, and lends itself so easily to allegorical interpretation, that its literal accuracy was never a recognised part of the Christian Creed until after the Reformation, and, indeed, until after the publication of Paradise Lost. Fathers of the Church such as Clement of Alexandria, and still more Origen in the East, or even Ambrose, Augustine, and to some extent Jerome, in the West, were content to look upon the early chapters of Genesis as embodying spiritual truth under the guise of allegory or poetry. But to Milton and to the reformed Christian bodies in England after him, not only the Fall of man in itself, but the incidents and accidents of the Fall, the garden, the serpent as the tempter, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the apple as the fatal fruit of the tree, were actual prosaic verities. It is Milton too who has stamped the character of Satan with a certain moral dignity which finds no warrant in the Bible. Above all, it is he who has instilled into Christian hearts and minds the widely spread, if partly latent, Arian, or semi-Arian, conception of our Lord's Personality. Wherever Christians, or at least English Christians, in the last two or three centuries have consciously or unconsciously regarded the Second Person of the Trinity as a Being, however exalted in Himself, yet distinct from and inferior to the First Person, they have probably been influenced by the teaching of Milton in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, if not in his more explicit treatise Of Christian Doctrine.
It is probable that no part of Milton's religious or theological teaching has achieved so little practical result in Christendom, or at least among orthodox Christians, as his theory of the relation between man and wife in Holy Matrimony.
He put forward his strange views not only in the treatise entitled The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, of which the first edition was published in 1643, but also in The Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce, published in 1644, in Tetrachordon Expositions upon the Foure Chiefe Places in Scripture
· Life of John Milton, vol. vi. p. 839.
which treat of Marriage of Nullities of Marriage, and in Colasterion, a reply to a nameless answer against the Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, published in 1644-5.
The principle of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce is expressed in its full original title, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce: Restor'd to the good of both Sexes, from the Bondage of Canon Law, and other Mistakes, to the true meaning of Scripture in the Law and Gospel compar'd. Wherin also are set down the bad consequences of abolishing or condemning of Sin, that which the Law of God allowes, and Christ abolisht not. The treatise was addressed to the Parlament of England with the Assembly '; and, curiously enough in view of its subject, it is the treatise which contains the memorable words 'Let not England forget her precedence of teaching the nations how to live.' Still more curious is a chronological fact connected with The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce. It seems from the date, as marked upon the first edition in the British Museum, that The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce was published in August 1643. But it was in May 1643 that Milton married his first wife, Mary Powell. Milton then was, and perhaps, owing to his strange lack of humour, it may be said that he could have been, the only person who ever apparently devoted his honeymoon to writing a treatise in favour of divorce.
A single extract from The Doctrine and Discipline of Dirorce will show what was his general line of argument. It lay in his contention that divorce was essential to human happiness; that it was expressly sanctioned in the Old Testament, and nowhere prohibited by Christ or His apostles in the New.
O perversnes ! that the Law should be made more provident of peacemaking then the Gospell! that the Gospel should be put to beg a most necessary help of mercy from the Law, but must not have it: and that to grind in the mill of an undelighted and servil copulation, must be the only forc't work of a Christian mariage, oft times with such a yokefellow, from whom both love and peace, both nature and Religion mourns to be separated. I cannot therefore be so diffident, as not securely' to conclude, that he who can receive nothing of the most important helps in mariage, being thereby disinabl’d to returne that duty which is his, with a cleare and hearty countenance; and thus continues to grieve whom he would not, and is no less griev'd, that man ought even for loves sake and peace to move Divorce upon good and liberall conditions to the divorc't. And it is a lesse breach of wedlock to part with wife and quiet consent betimes, then still to soile and profane that mystery of joy and union with a polluting sadnesse and perpetuall distemper; for it is not the outward continuing of marriage that keepes whole that cov'nant, but whosoever does most according to peace and love, whether in marriage or in divorce, he it is that breaks marriage least; it being so often written, that Love onely is the fullfilling of every Commandement. 3
Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, ch. vi.
But Milton was favourable to polygamy as well as to divorce, and he was favourable to it on much the same grounds. In the chief or only passage of his writings where he argues for polygamous unions, the treatise Of Christian Doctrine, Chapter X., it is by the examples of the patriarchs and kings in the Old Testament, and by the absence of any direct sentence against polygamy in the New Testament, that he tries to justify a system so abhorrent not only to the moral law, but to the moral sentiment, of all Christian nations.
The early narratives of Genesis, however they may be interpreted, are characterised by a striking literary reserve. The Garden of Eden itself, the serpent, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the relation of the first man to his wife, their temptation and their expulsion from the Garden, are all more or less veiled in the shadow of mystery. But Milton has painted the story of man's Fall and of the agents or instruments in his Fall with vivid and almost lurid colours.
Thus the tempter is represented not only as a serpent but a's à serpent with all his attributes of form and nature in high relief. Milton describes him as follows:
So spake the Enemie of Mankind, enclos'd
Oft he bowd
Similarly Milton paints the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that it becomes almost visible to the spectator's eye.
· Paradise Lost, ix. 494-505.
• Paradise Lost, ix. 524-531.