[Milton-L] PL and the sabbath, etc.

Dan Knauss daniel.knauss at mu.edu
Mon Dec 20 23:47:04 EST 2004

I can't remember where I heard this, but supposedly sex on the Sabbath
was/is encouraged among Jews. 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of 
> Susan Bissett
> Sent: Monday, December 20, 2004 11:12 PM
> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> Subject: [Milton-L] PL and the sabbath, etc. 
> I recall reading somewhere of a minister in New England who
> chastised couples in his congregation, considering that a 
> child born on a Sunday must have been conceived on a Sunday 
> -until his own wife gave birth on a Sunday.  I wish I could 
> remember the source.    The New England Puritans seem to have 
> included some rather legalistic and literal types.  They are 
> known to have legislated and enforced Sabbath observance.   
> It might also be relevant that church going was a much longer 
> affair for many Puritans - a long service during the morning 
> was followed by a cold or pre-cooked lunch, and then 
> additional sermons during the afternoon, in some churches.  
> Certainly no Sunday afternoon games. It doesn't seem to have 
> left much time or privacy for making whoopee.
> The implication that sex on a Sunday was wrong would surely
> not have been the opinion of some of the radical sects 
> 1640-1659, some of whom practiced free love, aspired to 
> sexual equality, and went naked in the belief that 
> pre-lapsarian innocence was attainable by believers in 
> anticipation of the millenium.  A certain Quaker named Naylor 
> comes to mind, as do the Adamites.  The Adamites were accused 
> of wife-swapping in one of the Thomason tracts (illustrated). 
>  I don't know whether they allegedly did this on Sundays or whenever.
> Sexual asceticism was an attribute of Catholicism, especially
> after the Council of Trent; many Protestants (notably Luther 
> and his followers) considered marriage, not the convent or 
> the celibate life, to be normal behavior for Christians.  
> Puritan clergy, after all, were encouraged to marry, as did 
> Calvin, and Knox.  And, of course, other Protestants 
> disagreed.  Robert Boyle, the chemist, considered the 
> scientist a kind of priest of knowledge, and considered 
> scientific experiments to be a kind of worship, suitable for 
> Sundays.  He also was an avowed celibate, as was Isaac 
> Newton.  Both had Puritan backgrounds; both contributed 
> intellectual support to Anglican latitudinarianism.   It 
> seems quite safe to say that there was a variety of opinion 
> about sexuality during this period, as always, but it seems 
> that radicals were freer than other Protestants, and that the 
> high church tended towards celibacy more than others.  
> Congregationalists (Independents) and Presbyterians, it seem!
> s, have always liked to make rules, and have enforced 
> Sabbatarianism.  That is the kind of character trait that 
> might outlaw sex on Sunday.    
> As for Milton...
> Milton's references to married love in Paradise Lost are, of
> course, referring to the unfallen state.  But they are both 
> luscious and full of great dignity. Somehow, sex seems much 
> sexier before the fall, which I suppose to be Milton's 
> intent.   Milton follows Augustine in supposing that Adam and 
> Eve had sex without sin in Eden.  Clearly, Milton puts sex in 
> a more positive light than other commentators, who regarded 
> sex as a result of the fall.  Furthermore, Milton's 
> idealistic portrayal of the possibilities of married 
> "conversation" (with both meanings) in the Divorce tracts, 
> and his disparagement of "grinding" sexual intercourse in an 
> unhappy marriage indicates an emphasis on intellectual and 
> spiritual love rather than physical.  The physical act of 
> love is valued when it is part of a good relationship, and it 
> is devalued when it is purely physical.  This certainly 
> leaves the door open for righteous sex on Sunday, although, 
> poor Milton, it's hard to imagine him actually ac!
> hieving the kind of relationship he idealized. 
> James Grantham Turner, where are you when we need you?
> Susan J. C. Bissett
> sbissett at drew.edu
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