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On the new forcers of Conscience under the Long PARLAMENT by John Milton, 1645

By admin | March 31, 2008

          On the new forcers of Conscience under the Long PARLAMENT
                               John Milton 1645
               Annotations by James Renihan, Ph.D., March 2008
 (Orthography as in original--see The Poetical Works of John Milton, 2:157)

Because you have thrown of your Prelate Lord,[1]
        And with stiff Vowes[2] renounc'd his Liturgie
        To seise the widdow'd whore Pluralitie[3]
        From them whose sin ye envi'd, not abhor'd,
      Dare ye for this adjure the Civill Sword              5
        To force our Consciences that Christ set free,
        And ride us with a classic Hierarchy[4]
        Taught ye by meer A. S.[5] and Rotherford?[6]
      Men whose Life, Learning, Faith and pure intent
        Would have been held in high esteem with Paul       10
        Must now be nam'd and printed Hereticks
      By shallow Edwards[7] and Scotch what d'ye call:[8]
        But we do hope to find out all your tricks,
        Your plots and packing wors then those of Trent,[9]
                                That so the Parlament       15
        May with their wholsom and preventive Shears
        Clip your Phylacteries, though bauk your Ears,[10]
                                And succour our just Fears
        When they shall read this clearly in your charge
        New Presbyter is but Old Priest writ Large.         20

[1]Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud

[2]The Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, adopted by the English Parliament in order to ensure Scottish support in its war with King Charles I.

[3]The practice of ministers taking multiple pastorates and benefiting from the accumulated incomes from them.

[4]The imposition of Presbyterian/Erastian polity in place of Episcopalian/Erastian polity.

[5]Adam Steuart (or Stewart), Scottish professor who taught at Leyden.

[6]Samuel Rutherford.

[7]Thomas Edwards, controversial author of the three headed tome Gangraena.

[8]Perhaps a reference to Robert Baylie, Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly and self-appointed heresy hunter.

[9]The well-known Romanist Counter-reformation synod.

[10]A reference to the punishment Charles I meted out through William Laud to the Parliamentary leaders William Prynne, John Bastwick and Henry Burton. In 1633, Prynne was sentenced to have a portion of his ears cut off; in 1637 the job was completed when he received a second judgment, along with Bastwick and Burton. Prynne was also branded with the letters “S L” (seditious libeler), but he proudly referred to the wounds as the ‘stigmata Laudis.’

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