Glad to check this off of my “classics-I-probably-should-have–already-read” list. Milton’s classic poem about the creation of the world, Satan’s rebellion, Adam and Eve’s fall, and the promise of the Messiah was just delightful.
The poem is wonderfully picturesque. While it is obviously based on biblical events, Milton’s imagination doesn’t run too wild, but rather fills the Genesis narrative in with details that seem profoundly likely. Those folks who say Protestants can’t create great works of art must conveniently overlook Paradise Lost. One qualifier is that Milton was apparently heterodox on the Trinity, which is somewhat noticeable in this tome (i.e. very little of the Holy Ghost, and a subordinationist view of the Son, etc.). However, it was quite an enjoyable piece of literature, and it is clear why it is such an enduring work.
I especially enjoyed the description of Adam and Eve’s marriage before the fall, and it would certainly put egalitarian panties in a bunch and probably perplex overbearing patriarchalists. Satan’s deception of Eve is quite a marvelous and insightful portion as well. The final section is the archangel Michael revealing to Adam how history will play out, and shows him that the promised redeemer would be “slaine for bringing Life.” That portion, while certainly imaginative and not authoritative, was just the bees knees. I’ve included a few selections from that section:
Not wandring poor, but trusting all his wealthWith God, who call’d him, in a land unknown.
Thus with ten woundsThis River-dragon tam’d at length submits
Of the Law
And therefore was Law given them to evinceThir natural pravitie, by stirring upSin against Law to fight; that when they seeLaw can discover sin, but not remove,Save by those shadowie expiations weak,The bloud of Bulls and Goats, they may concludeSome bloud more precious must be paid for Man,Just for unjust, that in such righteousnessTo them by Faith imputed, they may findeJustification towards God, and peaceOf Conscience, which the Law by CeremoniesCannot appease, nor Man the moral partPerform, and not performing cannot live.
Of the Covenant of Grace
From shadowie Types to Truth, from Flesh to Spirit,From imposition of strict Laws, to freeAcceptance of large Grace, from servil fearTo filial, works of Law to works of Faith.
But to the Cross he nailes thy Enemies,The Law that is against thee, and the sinsOf all mankinde, with him there crucifi’d.
Or theirs whom he redeems, a death like sleep,A gentle wafting to immortal Life.
Adam’s Praise for Jesus
O goodness infinite, goodness immense!That all this good of evil shall produce,And evil turn to good; more wonderfulThen that which by creation first brought forthLight out of darkness! full of doubt I stand,Whether I should repent me now of sinBy mee done and occasiond, or rejoyceMuch more, that much more good thereof shall spring,To God more glory, more good will to MenFrom God, and over wrauth grace shall abound.