John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 12 (ctd.)

Adam again expresses his joy, this time at seeing how much good God is going to bring out of this evil, so much so that he is almost happy to have sinned. This is not, as the Helpful Footnote points out, quite the same thing as the old medieval doctrine of “felix culpa”, the idea that humankind is much better off because of the original sin. As Milton is at pain to point out, God’s original idea was to put Adam and Eve on the tenure track which would eventually have brought them to Heaven, and the original sin was a setback for them. But it was an opportunity for God to show his grace to a far greater degree than if Adam and Eve had not sinned. Adam is concerned about the fate of believers after Jesus leaves them: aren’t unbelievers going to persecute them, just like they did with Jesus? Certainly, answers Michael, but God is going to send them the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, which is going to bestow on them not only moral support in face of the attacks of the ungodly people and Satan, but also give them the ability to speak in tongues and perform miracles. After all the original apostles die out, leaving their writings behind, Christianity is going to become corrupted as well: people are going to use it for worldly advancement and pecuniary gain, they are going to enter into an unholy alliance with the temporal power to suppress the freedom of conscience, which in Milton’s view is the basic tenet of Christianity. Interestingly enough, Milton overlooks the Reformation, probably because the Church of England became, in his view, not much better than the Church of Rome. So all the true believers have to rely on is their inner light and the Scriptures, and they have to look forward to the Judgement Day, when the Earth is going to be purged through fire and the new, perfect and eternal world is going to be created.


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