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the pains and cost of his invention, so long as such sweet rhapsodies of heathenism and knight-errantry could yield him prayers. How dishonourable then, and how unworthy of a Christian king, were these ignoble shifts to seem holy, and to get a saintship among the ignorant and wretched people; to draw them by this deception, worse than all his former injuries, to go a whoring after him! And how unhappy, how forsook of grace, and unbeloved of God that people who resolve to know no more of piety or of goodness, than to account him their chief saint and martyr, whose bankrupt devotion came not honestly by his very prayers; but having sharked them from the mouth of a heathen worshipper, (detestable to teach him prayers !) sold them to those that stood and honoured him next to the Messiah, as his own heavenly compositions in adversity; for hopes no less vain and presumptuous (and death at that time so imminent upon him) than by these goodly reliques to be held a saint and martyr in opinion with the cheated people!
And thus far in the whole chapter we have seen and considered, and it cannot but be clear to all men, how, and for what ends, what concernments and necessities, the late king was no way induced, but every way constrained to call this last parliament; yet here in his first prayer he trembles not to avouch, as in the ears of God, “That he did it with an upright intention to his glory, and his people's good : ” of which dreadful attestation, how sincerely meant, God, to whom it was avowed, can only judge; and he hath judged already, and hath written his impartial sentence in characters legible to all Christendom; and besides hath taught us, that there be some, whom he hath given over to delusion, whose very mind and conscience is defiled; of whom St. Paul to Titus makes mention.
CHAPTER II. Upon the Earl of Strafford's Death. This next chapter is a penitent confession of the king, and the strangest, if it be well weighed, that ever was auricular. For he repents here of giving his consent, though most unwillingly, to the most seasonable and solemn piece of justice, that had been done of many years in the land: but his sole
conscience thought the contrary. And thus was the welfare the safety, and, within a little, the unanimous demand of three populous nations, to have attended still on the singularity of one man's opinionated conscience; if men had always been so tame and spiritless, and had not unexpectedly found the grace to understand, that, if his conscience were so narrow and peculiar to itself, it was not fit his authority should be so ample and universal over others: for certainly a private conscience sorts not with a public calling, but declares that person rather meant by nature for a private for
tune. And this also we may take for truth, that he, whose • conscience thinks it sin to put to death a capital offender, will as oft think it meritorious to kill a righteous person.
But let us hear what the sin was, that lay so sore upon him, and, as one of his prayers given to Dr. Juxon testifies, to the very day of his death; it was his signing the bill of Strafford's execution; a man whom all men looked upon as one of the boldest and most impetuous instruments that the king had, to advance any violent or illegal design.* He
* Clarendon, with his usual felicity, when prejudice stands not in the way, paints the character of Strafford; and from his portrait the reader, who consults his History, (voi. i. p. 455, sqq.) and diligently compares therewith what other authors have written of him, must inevitably perceive that he was a bold bad man, haughty, ambitious, revengeful, implacable; one who aimed at distinction for the most selfish of purposes, and obtaining, used it to gratify his malignant passions. The fierce prosecution of his private feud with Lord Savill, one whose old age he ungenerously insulted, would of itself, if other proofs were wanting, sufficiently disclose the temper of the man. But the historian observes, that his “successes, applied to a nature too elate and arrogant of itself, and a quicker progress into the greatest employments and trust, made him more transported with disdain of other men, and more contemning the forms of business, than haply he would have been, if he had met with some interruptions in the beginning, and had passed in a more leisurely gradation to the office of a statesman.” “ Of all his passions, his pride was most predominant; which a moderate exercise of ill fortune might have corrected and reformed ; and which was by the hand of heaven strangely punished, by bringing his destruction upon him by two things that he most despised-THE PEOPLE, and Sir Harry Vane.” Upon this passage Warburton remarks :-“ His ambition, pride, and appetite for revenge, were all exorbitant. His parts were of the first rate, and these solely directed to the gratification of his passions. What wonder then, when men found him in the station of prime-minister, they should never think themselves safe while he continued there ?" (Clarendon's History, vii. 537.) Such a character, drawn by two writers not over friendly to freedom, will prepare the reader the more readily to enter into Milton's views of Strafford. The obscure servile author of the “ Vindiciæ Carolinæ,” (p. 29–36,) imagines he has, by
had ruled Ireland, and some parts of England, in an arbitrary manner; had endeavoured to subvert fundamental laws, to subvert parliaments, and to incense the king against them; he had also endeavoured to make hostility between England and Scotland: he had counselled the king to call over that Irish army of papists, which he had cunningly raised, to reduce England, as appeared by good testimony then present at the consultation : for which and many other crimes al. leged and proved against him in twenty-eight articles, he was condemned of high-treason by the parliament.
The commons by far the greater number cast him: the lords, after they had been satisfied in a full discourse by the king's solicitor, and the opinions of many judges delivered in their house, agreed likewise to the sentence of treason. The people universally cried out for justice. None were his friends but courtiers and clergymen, the worst, at that time, and most corrupted sort of men; and court ladies, not the best of women ; who when they grow to that insolence as to appear active in state affairs, are the certain sign of a dissolute, degenerate, and pusillanimous commonwealth. Last of all, the king, or rather first, for these were but his apes, was not satisfied in conscience to condemn him of high-treason; and declared to both houses,“ that no fears or respects whatsoever should make him alter that resolution founded upon his conscience.” Either then his resolution was indeed not founded upon his conscience, or his conscience received better information, or else both his conscience and this his strong resolution struck sail, notwithstanding these glorious words, to his stronger fear; for within a few days after, when the judges, at a privycouncil, and four of his elected bishops had picked the thorn out of his conscience, he was at length persuaded to sign the bill for Strafford's execution. And yet perhaps that it wrung science to condemn the earl of high-treason is not unlikely; not because he thought him guiltless of highest treason, had half those crimes been committed against his own private interest or person, as appeared plainly by his charge against the six members; but because he knew himself a principal in what the earl was but his accessory, and thought nothing treason against the commonwealth, but against himself only. nis abvse, confuted Milton, and vindicated the reputation of this ape of Sylla. The comparison is Clarendon's, (History, i. 456.)-En.
Had he really scrupled to sentence that for treason, which he thought not treasonable, why did he seem resolved by the judges and the bishops ? and if by them resolved, how comes the scruple here again? It was not then, as he now pretends, “ the importunities of some, and the fear of many," which made him sign, but the satisfaction given him by those judges and ghostly fathers of his own choosing. Which of him shall we believe ? for he seems not one, but double; either here we must not believe him professing that his satisfaction was but seemingly received and out of fear, or else we may as well believe that the scruple was no real scruple, as we can believe him here against himself before, that the satisfaction then received was no real satisfaction. Of such a variable and fleeting conscience what hold can be taken ?
But that indeed it was a facile conscience, and could dissemble satisfaction when it pleased, his own ensuing actions declared; being soon after found to have the chief hand in a most detested conspiracy against the parliament and king: dom, as by letters and examinations of Percy, Goring, and other conspirators came to light; that his intention was to rescue the Earl of Strafford, by seizing on the Tower of London; to bring up the English army out of the North, joined with eight thousand Irish papists raised by Strafford, and a French army to be landed at Portsmouth, against the parliament and their friends. For which purpose the king, though requested by both houses to disband those Irish papists, refused to do it, and kept them still in arms to his own purposes. No marvel then, if being as deeply criminous as the earl himself, it stung his conscience to adjudge to death those misdeeds, whereof himself had been the chief author: no marvel though instead of blaming and detesting his ambition, his evil counsel, his violence, and oppression of the people, he fall to praise his great abilities; and with scholastic flourishes, beneath the decency of a king, compares him to the sun, which in all figurative use and significance bears allusion to a king, not to a subject : no marvel though he knit contradictions as close as words can lie together, not approving in his judgment," and yet approving in his subsequent reason all that Strafford did, as “driven by the necessity of times, and the temper of that people;" for this excuses all his misdemeanors. Lastly, no marvel that
he goes on building many fair and pious conclusions upon false and wicked premises, which deceive the common reader, not well discerning the antipathy of such connexions: but this is the marvel, and may be the astonishment, of all that have a conscience, how he durst in the sight of God (and with the same words of contrition wherewith David repents the murdering of Uriah) repent his lawful compliance to that just act of not saving him, whom he ought to have delivered up to speedy punishment; though himself the guiltier of the two.
If the deed were so sinful, to have put to death so great a malefactor, it would have taken much doubtless from the heaviness of his sin, to have told God in his confession how he laboured, what dark plots he had contrived, into what a league entered, and with what conspirators, against his parliament and kingdoms, to have rescued from the claim of justice so notable and so dear an instrument of tyranny; which would have been a story, no doubt, as pleasing in the ears of heaven, as all these equivocal repentances. For it was fear, and nothing else, which made him feign before both the scruple and the satisfaction of his conscience, that is to say, of his mind : his first fear pretended conscience, that he might be borne with to refuse signing; his latter fear, being more urgent, made him find a conscience both to sign and to be satisfied. As for repentance, it came not on him till a long time after; when he saw " he could have suffered nothing more, though he had denied that bill.” For how could he understandingly repent of letting that be treason, which the parliament and whole nation so judged ? This was that which repented him, to have given up to just punishment so stout a champion of his designs, who might have been so useful to him in his following civil broils. It was a worldly repentance, not a conscientious; or else it was a strange tyranny, which his conscience had got over hiin, to vex him like an evil spirit for doing one act of justice, and by that means to “fortify his resolution” from ever doing so any more. That mind must needs be irrecoverably depraved, which either by chance or importunity, tasting but once of one just deed, spatters at it, and abhors the relish ever after.
To the Scribes and Pharisees wo was denounced by our Saviour, for straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, though a gnat were to be strained at: but to a conscience