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classing under certain heads whatever passage of Scripture occurred for extraction , to be made use of hereafter as occasion might require . At length 1 resorted with increased confidence to some
of the more copious theological treatises , and to the examination of the arguments advanced by the conflicting parties respecting certain disputed points of faith . But , to speak the truth with freedom as well as candou / , I was concerned to discover in manV instances adverse
reasonings either evaded by wretched shifts , or attempted to be refuted , rather speciously than with solidity , by an affected display of formal sophisms , or by a constant recourse to the quibbles of the grammarians , while what was most pertinaciously espoused as the true doctrine , seemed often defended with more vehemence
than strength of argument , by misconstructions of Scripture , or by the hasty deduction of erroneous inferences . Ow * ing to these causes , the truth was sometimes as strenuously opposed as if it had been an error or a heresy , while errors and heresies were substituted for the
truth , and valued rather from deference to custom and the spirit of party than from the authority of Scripture . " —Pp . I Distrusting all human guides , Milton wisely and bravely resolved to give himself up to the " word of God
itself / ' and that " solely , " " seeing that " he " could have no wish to practise any imposition on himself in such a matter . " In this study , continued for years , he was so far satisfied as at
length to trust that he had discovered , with regard to religion , ( a discovery which the greater part of the Christian world has yet to make , ) " what was matter . of belief , and what only matter of opinion "
With exemplary candour , he states his motives in laying the fruits of his researches before the world : ^* If I communicate the result of my inquiries to the world at large ; if , as God is my witness , it be with a friendly or benignant feeling towards mankind
that I readily give as wide a circulation as possible to what 1 esteem my best and richest possession , I hope to meet with a candid reception from all parties , and that none , at least , will take unjust offence , even though many things should be brought to light which will at once be seen to differ from certain received
opinions . I earnestly beseech all lovers of truth , not to cry out that the church is throwii into confusion by that freedom of disctission arid inquiry which is granted to the schools , and ought certainly to be
refused to no believer , since we are ordered to prove all things , and since the daily progress of the light of truth is productive far less of disturbance to the church than of illumination and edification . Nor do I see how the church can
be more disturbed by the investigation of truth , than were the Gentiles by the first promulgation of the gospel ; since , so far from recommending or imposing any thing on my own authority , it is my
particular advice that every one should suspend his opinion on whatever points lie may not feel himself fully satisfied , till the evidence of Scripture prevail , and persuade his reason into assent and faith . ' —Pp . 4 , 5 .
The conclusion of the Preface breathes that spirit of liberty , which was the vital principle of Milton ' s mind and character : " It has also been my object to make it appear from the opinions I shall be found to have advanced , whether new or
old , of how much consequence to the Christian religion is the liberty , not only of winnowing and sifting every doctrine , but also of thinking and even writing respecting it , according to our individual faith and persuasion—an inference which will be stronger in proportion to the
weight and importance of those opinions , or rather in proportion to the authority of Scripture , on the abundant testimony of which they rest . Without this liberty there is neither religion nor gospel—force alone prevails—by which it is disgraceful for the Christian religion to be supported .
Without this liberty , we are still enslaved , not , indeed , as formerly , under the diviue law , but , what is worst of all , under the law of man ; [ servitus ad hue durat ; non legi , nt olim , divinse , sed quod misserrimum est , humanae ;] or , to speak more truly , under a barbarous tyranny . But I
do not expect from candid and judicious readers a conduct so unworthy of them - —that , like certain unjust and foolish men , they should stamp with the invidious name of heretic or heresy whatever appears to them to differ from the received opinions , without trying the
doctrine by a comparison with Scripture testimonies . According to their notions , to have branded any one at random with this opprobrious mark , is to have refuted him without any trouble , by a single word . By the simple imputation of the name of heretic , they think that they have
despatched their man at one blow . To men of this kind I answer , that in the time of the apostles , ere the New Testament was written , whenever the charge of heresy was applied as a term of reproach , that alone was considered as heresy which was at variance with then
610 Review . —Milton ' s Treatise of Christian Doctrine *
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Oct. 2, 1825, page 610, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2541/page/34/