To the PARLAMENT

THat which I knew to be the part of a good Magistrate, aiming at true liberty through the right information of religious and civil life, and that which I saw, and was partaker, of your Vows and solemne Cov'nants, Parlament of England, your actions also manifestly tending to exalt the truth, and to depresse the tyranny of error, and ill custome, with more constancy and prowesse then ever yet any, since that Parlament which put the first Scepter of this Kingdom into his hand whom God and extraordinary vertue made thir Monarch, were the causes that mov'd me, one else not placing much in the eminence of a dedication, to present your high notice with a Discourse, conscious to it self of nothing more then of diligence, and firm affection to the publick good. And that ye took it so as wise and impartial men, obtaining so great power and dignitie, are wont to accept, in matters both doubtfull and important, what they think offer'd them well meant, and from a rational ability, I had no lesse then to perswade me. And on that perswasion am return'd, as to a famous and free Port, my self also bound by more then a maritime Law, to expose as freely what fraughtage I conceave to bring of no trifles. For although it be generally known, how and by whom ye have been instigated to a hard censure of that former book entitl'd, The Doctrine, and Discipline of Divorce, an opinion held by some of the best among reformed Writers without scandal or confutement, though now thought new and dangerous by some of our severe Gnostics, whose little reading, and lesse meditating holds ever with hardest obstinacy that which it took up with easiest credulity, I do not find yet that ought, for the furious incitements which have been us'd, hath issu'd by your appointment, that might give the least interruption or disrepute either to the Author, or to the Book. Which he who will be better advis'd then to call your neglect, or connivence at a thing imagin'd so perilous, can attribute it to nothing more justly, then to the deep and quiet streame of your direct and calme deliberations; that gave not way either to the fervent rashnesse, or the immaterial gravity of those who ceas'd not to exasperate without cause. For which uprightnesse and incorrupt refusall of what ye were incens'd to, Lords and Commons, (though it were don to justice, not to me, and was a peculiar demonstration how farre your waies are different from the rash vulgar) besides those allegiances of oath and duty, which are my public debt to your public labours, I have yet a store of gratitude laid up, which cannot be exhausted; and such thanks perhaps they may live to be, as shall more then whisper to the next ages. Yet that the Author may be known to ground himself upon his own innocence, and the merit of his cause, not upon the favour of a diversion, or a delay to any just censure, but wishes rather he might see those his detracters at any fair meeting, as learned debatements are privileg'd with a due freedome under equall Moderators, I shall here briefly single one of them (because he hath oblig'd me to it) who I perswade me having scarse read the book, nor knowing him who writ it, or at least faining the latter, hath not forborn to scandalize him, unconferr'd with, unadmonisht, undealt with by any Pastorly or brotherly convincement, in the most open and invective manner, and at the most bitter opportunity that drift or set designe could have invented. And this, when as the Canon Law, though commonly most favouring the boldnesse of their Priests, punishes the naming or traducing of any person in the Pulpit, was by him made no scruple. If I shall therfore take licence by the right of nature, and that liberty wherin I was born, to defend my self publicly against a printed Calumny, and do willingly appeal to those Judges to whom I am accus'd, it can be no immoderate, or unallowable course of seeking so just and needfull reparations. Which I had don long since, had not these employments, which are now visible, deferr'd me. It was preacht before ye, Lords and Commons, in August last upon a special day of humiliation, that there was a wicked Book abroad, and ye were taxt of sin that it was yet uncensur'd, the book deserving to be burnt, and impudence also was charg'd upon the Author, who durst set his name to it, and dedicate it to your selves. First, Lords and Commons, I pray to that God, before whom ye then were prostrate, so to forgive ye those omissions and trespasses, which ye desire most should find forgiveness, as I shall soon shew to the world how easily ye absolve your selves of that which this man calls your sin, and is indeed your wisdome, and your Noblenesse, wherof to this day ye have don well not to repent. He terms it a wicked book, and why but for allowing other causes of Divorce, then Christ and his Apostles mention; and with the same censure condemns of wickedness not onely Martin Bucer that elect Instrument of Reformation, highly honour'd and had in reverence by Edward the sixth, and his whole Parlament, whom also I had publisht in English by a good providence, about a week before this calumnious digression was preach'd; so that if he knew not Bucer then, as he ought to have known, he might at least have known him some months after, ere the Sermon came in print, wherein notwithstanding he persists in his former sentence, and condemnes again of wickednesse, either ignorantly or wilfully, not onely Martin Bucer, and all the choisest and holiest of our Reformers, but the whole Parlament and Church of England in those best and purest times of Edward the sixth. All which I shall prove with good evidence, at the end of those Explanations. And then let it be judg'd and seriously consider'd with what hope the affairs of our Religion are committed to one among others, who hath now onely left him which of the twain he will choose, whether this shall be his palpable ignorance, or the same wickedness of his own book, which he so lavishly imputes to the writings of other men: and whether this of his, that thus peremptorily defames and attaints of wickedness unspotted Churches, unblemisht Parlaments, and the most eminent restorers of Christian Doctrine, deserve not to be burnt first. And if his heat had burst out onely against the opinion, his wonted passion had no doubt bin silently born with wonted patience. But since, against the charity of that solemne place and meeting, it serv'd him furder to inveigh opprobriously against the person, branding him with no lesse then impudence, onely for setting his name to what he had writt'n; I must be excus'd not to be so wanting to the defence of an honest name, or to the reputation of those good men who afford me their society, but to be sensible of such a foule endeavour'd disgrace: not knowing ought either in mine own deserts, or the Laws of this Land, why I should be subject, in such a notorious and illegal manner, to the intemperancies of this mans preaching choler. And indeed to be so prompt and ready in the midst of his humblenesse, to tosse reproaches of this bulk and size, argues as if they were the weapons of his exercise, I am sure not of his Ministry, or of that dayes work. Certainly to subscribe my name at what I was to own, was what the State had order'd and requires. And he who lists not to be malicious, would call it ingenuity, cleer conscience, willingness to avouch what might be question'd, or to be better instructed. And if God were so displeas'd with those, Isa. 58. who on the solemne fast were wont to smite with the fist of wickednesse, it could be no signe of his own humiliation accepted, which dispos'd him to smite so keenly with a reviling tongue. But if onely to have writ my name must be counted impudence, how doth this but justifie another, who might affirm with as good warrant, that the late Discourse of Scripture and Reason, which is certain to be chiefly his own draught, was publisht without a name, out of base fear, and the sly avoidance of what might follow to his detriment, if the party at Court should hap to reach him. And I, to have set my name, where he accuses me to have set it, am so far from recanting, that I offer my hand also if need be, to make good the same opinion which I there maintain, by inevitable consequences drawn parallel from his own principal arguments in that of Scripture and Reason: which I shall pardon him, if he can deny, without shaking his own composition to peeces. The impudence therfore, since he waigh'd so little what a grosse revile that was to give his equall, I send him back again for a phylactery to stitch upon his arrogance, that censures not onely before conviction so bitterly without so much as one reason giv'n, but censures the Congregation of his Governors to their faces, for not being so hasty as himself to censure.

And wheras my other crime is, that I address'd the Dedication of what I had studied, to the Parlament, how could I better declare the loyalty which I owe to that supreme and majestick Tribunal, and the opinion which I have of the high-entrusted judgment, and personall worth assembl'd in that place. With the same affections therfore, and the same addicted fidelity, Parlament of England, I here again have brought to your perusal on the same argument these following Expositions of Scripture. The former book, as pleas'd some to think, who were thought judicious, had of reason in it to a sufficiencie; what they requir'd, was that the Scriptures there alleg'd might be discuss'd more fully. To their desires, thus much furder hath been labour'd in the Scriptures. Another sort also who wanted more autorities, and citations, have not been here unthought of. If all this attain not to satisfie them, as I am confident that none of those our great controversies at this day, hath had a more demonstrative explaining, I must confesse to admire what it is; for doubtlesse it is not reason now adayes that satisfies, or suborns the common credence of men, to yeeld so easily, and grow so vehement in matters much more disputable, and farre lesse conducing to the daily good and peace of life. Some whose necessary shifts have long enur'd them to cloak the defects of their unstudied yeers, and hatred now to learn, under the appearance of a grave solidity, which estimation they have gain'd among weak perceivers, find the ease of slighting what they cannot refute, and are determin'd, as I hear, to hold it not worth the answering. In which number I must be forc'd to reck'n that Doctor, who in a late equivocating Treatise plausibly set afloat against the Dippers, diving the while himself with a more deep prelatical malignance against the present state, & Church-government, mentions with ignominy the Tractate of Divorce; yet answers nothing, but instead therof (for which I do not commend his marshalling) sets Moses also among the crew of his Anabaptists, as one who to a holy Nation, the Commonwealth of Israel, gave Laws breaking the bonds of mariage to inordinate lust. These are no mean surges of blasphemy, not onely dipping Moses the divine Lawgiver, but dashing with a high hand against the justice and purity of God himself; as these ensuing Scriptures plainly and freely handl'd shall verifie to the launcing of that old apostemated error. Him therefore I leave now to his repentance.

Others, which is their courtesie, confesse that wit and parts may do much to make that seem true which is not (as was objected to Socrates by them who could not resist his efficacy, that he ever made the worse cause seem the better) and thus thinking themselves discharg'd of the difficulty, love not to wade furder into the fear of a convincement. These will be their excuses to decline the full examining of this serious point. So much the more I presse it and repeat it, Lords and Commons, that ye beware while time is, ere this grand secret, and onely art of ignorance affecting tyrany, grow powerfull, and rule among us. For if sound argument and reason shall be thus put off, either by an undervaluing silence, or the maisterly censure of a rayling word or two in the Pulpit, or by rejecting the force of truth, as the meer cunning of eloquence and Sophistry, what can be the end of this, but that all good learning and knowledge will suddenly decay: Ignorance, and illiterate presumption, which is yet but our disease, will turn at length into our very constitution, and prove the hectic evill of this age: worse to be fear'd, if it get once to reign over us, then any fift Monarchy. If this shall be the course, that what was wont to be a chief commendation, and the ground of other mens confidence in an Author, his diligence, his learning, his elocution whether by right, or by ill meaning granted him, shall be turn'd now to a disadvantage and suspicion against him, that what he writes, though unconfuted, must therfore be mistrusted, therfore not receiv'd for the industry, the exactnesse, the labour in it, confess'd to be more then ordnary; as if wisdome had now forsak'n the thirstie and laborious inquirer to dwell against her nature with the arrogant and shallow babler, to what purpose all those pains and that continual searching requir'd of us by Solomon to the attainment of understanding; why are men bred up with such care and expence to a life of perpetual studies, why do your selves with such endeavour seek to wipe off the imputation of intending to discourage the progresse and advance of learning? He therfore whose heart can bear him to the high pitch of your noble enterprises, may easily assure himself that the prudence and farre-judging circumspectnesse of so grave a Magistracy sitting in Parlament, who have before them the prepar'd and purpos'd Act of their most religious predecessors to imitate in this question, cannot reject the cleerness of these reasons, and these allegations both here and formerly offer'd them; nor can over-look the necessity of ordaining more wholsomly and more humanly in the casualties of Divorce, then our Laws have yet establisht: if the most urgent and excessive grievances hapning in domestick life, be worth the laying to heart, which, unlesse Charity be farre from us, cannot be neglected. And that these things both in the right constitution, and in the right reformation of a Common-wealth call for speediest redresse, and ought to be the first consider'd, anough was urg'd in what was prefac'd to that monument of Bucer which I brought to your remembrance, and the other time before. Henceforth, except new cause be giv'n, I shall say lesse and lesse. For if the Law make not timely provision, let the Law, as reason is, bear the censure of those consequences, which her own default now more evidently produces. And if men want manlinesse to expostulate the right of their due ransom, and to second their own occasions, they may sit hereafter and bemoan themselves to have neglected through faintnesse the onely remedy of their sufferings, which a seasonable and well-grounded speaking might have purchas'd them. And perhaps in time to come, others will know how to esteem what is not every day put into their hands, when they have markt events, and better weigh'd how hurtfull and unwise it is, to hide a secret and pernicious rupture under the ill counsell of a bashfull silence. But who would distrust ought, or not be ample in his hopes of your wise and Christian determinations? who have the prudence to consider, and should have the goodnesse like gods, as ye are call'd, to find out readily, and by just Law to administer those redresses which have of old, not without God ordaining, bin granted to the adversities of mankind, ere they who needed, were put to ask. Certainly, if any other have enlarg'd his thoughts to expect from this Government so justly undertak'n, and by frequent assistances from heaven so apparently upheld, glorious changes and renovations both in Church and State, he among the formost might be nam'd, who prayes that the fate of England may tarry for no other Deliverers.

John Milton.