Catalogue Entry: THEM00337

Book II: Chapter 4

Author: John Milton

Source: A Treatise on Christian Doctrine, Compiled from the Holy Scriptures Alone, vol. 2 (Boston: 1825).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


See Grotius and Wetstein on Matt. iv. 10. and Leigh's Critica Sacra on the words δουλεύω and δουλεία;.


'He (Constantine) gave and administered occasion to bring in a deluge of ceremonies, thereby either to draw in the heathen by a resemblance of their rites, or to set a gloss upon the simplicity and plainness of Christianity, which, to the gorgeous solemnities of paganism, and the sense of the world's children, seemed but a homely and yeomanly religion.' Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, I. 18. 'This was that which made the old Christians paganize, while by their scandalous and base conforming to heathenism they did no more, when they had done their utmost, but bring some pagans to Christianize; for true Christians they neither were themselves, nor could make others in this fashion.' Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence, Ibid. 171. For numerous instances of these corruptions, see the ecclesiastical historians and other authorities. The policy which led to what one of the most eloquent of living writers happily calls 'paganizing Christianity in order to christen paganism,' has found its supporters in Mosheim and Gibbon. The former says; 'in these early times it was both wise and necessary to show, in the establishment of outward forms of worship, some indulgence to the ancient opinions, manners and laws of the respective nations to whom the gospel was preached... In a word, the external forms of worship used in the times of old must necessarily have been regulated and modified according to the character, genius, and manners of the different nations, on which the light of the gospel arose.' Ecclesiastical History, I. p. 100. 'The bishops augmented the number of religious rites in the Christian worship by way of accommodation to the infirmities and prejudices both of Jews and heathens, in order to facilitate thus their conversion to Christianity,' &c. Ibid. p. 162. 'After the conversion of the Imperial city, the Christians still continued, in the month of February, the annual celebration of the Lupercalia; to which they ascribed a secret and mysterious influence on the genial powers of the animal and vegetable world.' Gibbon's Decline and Fail of the Roman Empire, chap, xxxvi. Barbeyrac (Traité la Morale des Pères, ch. v. sect. 59, &c.) accuses Clemens Alexandrinus of having permitted the heathen converts to worship the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies; but the passage alluded to, when candidly considered, seems to admit of a different construction. See Strom. Lib. VI. Cap. xiv. p. 795, 796. Edit. Oxon. The author of the Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus mentions the following instance of a concession granted to the Christians of the second century. 'Cum animadvertisset (Gregorius) quod ob corporeas delectationes et voluptates simplex et imperitum vulgus in simulacrorum cultus errore permaneret..... permisit eis, ut in memoriam et recordationem sanctorum martyrum sese oblectarent, et in lætitiam effunderentur, quod successu temporis aliquando futurum esset ut sua sponte ad honestiorem et accuratiorem vitæ rationem transirent.' In the sixth century, Gregory the First, bishop of Rome, even went so far as to rebuke Serenus, Bishop of Marseilles, for breaking the images placed in churches, stating that he was desirous of conciliating the affections of the people by permitting the use of them, as pieces of history to instruct their minds in the leading facts of Christianity. See Milner's Church History, III. 55. Acting on the same principle, he also wrote to Mellitus, a missionary proceeding to Britain, recommending certain concessions to the early converts among our own countrymen, who had been accustomed to propitiate demons, and to indulge in sacrificial feasts. Ibid. p. 79. Tertullian seems to have formed a better judgment respecting the spirit of Christianity. See the treatise De Creatione, where he complains of the unnecessary introduction of additional rites into the church, borrowed from the enemies of the true religion.


This said unanimous, and other rites

Observing none, but adoration pure,

Which God likes best. Paradise Lost, IV. 736.


'If the Lord's Prayer had been "the warrant or pattern of set liturgies," as is here affirmed, why was neither that prayer, nor any other set form ever after used, or so much as mentioned by the apostles, much less commended to our use?' Answer to Eikon Basilike. Prose Works, III. 37.


'Conformably with his opinions on this subject, Milton ascribes extemporaneous effusions to our first parents:

Lowly they bow'd adoring, and began

Their orisons, each morning duly paid

In various style; for neither various style

Nor holy rapture wanted they to praise

Their Maker, in fit strains pronounc'd, or sung

Unmeditated. Paradise Lost, V. 144.

'It is not the goodness of matter, therefore, which is not, nor can be, owed to the liturgy, that will bear it out, if the form, which is the essence of it, be fantastic and superstitious, the end sinister, and the imposition violent.' Animadversions on the Remonstrant's Defence. Prose Works, I. 173. 'Neither can any true Christian find a reason why liturgy should be at all admitted, a prescription not imposed or practised by those first founders of the church, who alone had that authority,' &c. Answer to Eikon Basilike, III. 36. Compare also the whole of the chapter entitled 'On the Ordinance against the Common Prayer Book,' from which the last quotation is taken.'


..... Sighs now breath'd

Unutterable, which the spirit of prayer

Inspired, and wing'd for heav'n with speedier flight

Than loudest oratory. Paradise Lost, XI. 5.

..... Now therefore bend thine ear

To supplication, hear his sighs though mute,

Unskilful with what words to pray. Ibid. 30.

..... This will prayer,

Or one short sigh of human breath, upborne

Ev'n to the seat of God. Ibid. 146.

'Though we know not what to pray as we ought, yet he with sighs unutterable by any words, much less by a stinted liturgy, dwelling in us makes intercession for us.' Answer to Eikon Basilike. Prose Works, III.39.


'It is his promise also that where two or three gathered together in his name shall agree to ask him any thing, it shall he granted, for he is there in the midst of them.' Answer to Eikon Basilike. Prose Works, III. 39.


'There is a large difference in the repetition of some pathetical ejaculation raised out of the sudden earnestness and vigour of the inflamed soul, (such as was that of Christ in the garden) from the continual rehearsal of our daily orisons; which if a man shall kneel down in a morning, and say over, and presently in another part of the room kneel down again, and in other words ask but still for the same things as it were out of one inventory, I cannot see how he will escape that heathenish tautology of multiplying words, which Christ himself, that has the putting up of our prayers, told us would not be acceptable in heaven.' Animadversions upon the Remonstrant's Defence. I. 166.


'Adam and Eve are represented in Paradise Lost as praying, sometimes in a standing posture, sometimes kneeling, sometimes prostrate:

Thus they, in lowliest plight repentant stood,

Praying. XI. I.

where all the commentators have mistaken the true import of the phrase.

..... Since I sought

By prayer the offended Deity to appease,

Kneel'd, and before him humbled all my heart —. Ibid. 146.

..... They forthwith to the place

Repairing where he judg'd them, prostrate fell

Before him reverent, and both confessed

Humbly their faults, and pardon begg'd. X. 1098.


She as a veil down to the slender waist

Her unadorned golden tresses wore


..... which implied

Subjection. IV. 304.

See 1 Cor. xi. 15. 'her hair is given her for a covering,' where the marginal reading is for a veil.


... Sanctitude severe and pure,

Severe, but in true filial freedom plac'd. Paradise Lost, IV. 293.


'Si forte in Livonia, Norvegia, Suedia, Moscovia, &c. hyberno tempore, capite adeoque et manibus tectis orant, ratio est manifesta; natura nempe cœli, ob aëris inclementiam, non patitur ut sint tum aperto capite: itaque etsi tum adversus τὸ ρ῾ητὸν hujus canonis forte faciunt non faciunt tamen adversus ejus mentem, et rationem qua nititur, consuetudinem nimirum civilem: nam tum apud eos ne supplices quidem caput forte aperire solent, aut inferiores coram superioribus, ob cœli, uti dixi, inclementiam stare.' Lud Capelli Spicilegium in 1 Cor. xi. 4. Compare however the whole passage, Sect. 1-15.


To teach thee that God attributes to place

No sanctity, if none be thither brought

By men who there frequent, or therein dwell. Paradise Lost, XI. 836.


Super populum tuum sit benedictio tua maxime. Tremell. The precatory form is not preserved in our authorized translation; thy blessing if upon thy people.


If God afterward gave or permitted this insurrection of episcopacy, it is to be feared he did it in his wrath, as he gave the Israelites a king.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, I. 101.


Yet, sacrilegious, to himself would take

That which to God alone of right belongs.

Paradise Regained III. 140.


In the hymn of our first parents, when

..... prompt eloquence

Flow'd from their lips in prose or numerous verse,

Milton says of the angels extolling their Maker,

..... ye behold him, and with songs

And choral symphonies, day without night,

Circle his throne rejoicing. Paradise Lost V. 161.

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