[Milton-L] Poslapsarian Liberty

berry bberry at vcu.edu
Sat Nov 26 13:36:24 EST 2005

Re: [Milton-L] Poslapsarian LibertyI think Christopher Hill's World Turned Upside down, whichI am currently re-reading for other purposes, has much to do with your good point.

Boyd Berry
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Margaret Thickstun 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2005 1:04 PM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Poslapsarian Liberty

  Carl's post approaches the crux of Puritan theology in mid-century: in a strictly Calvinist interpretation of salvation, grace, not human effort, effects regeneration and provokes that experimental or deeply felt conviction that seventeenth-century protestants differentiate from notional, or purely intellectual, knowledge.  But English Puritanism, by the Interregnum, had moved far beyond Calvin's original articulation of God's sovereignty and absolute autonomy toward a covenantal theology that provided believers and clergy or educators with a more workable model.   In this modified Calvinist system, clergymen identified stages of conversion-- conviction of sin produces repentance, regeneration, and, finally, sanctification--and worked to produce the first in order to prepare for the later stages.     As N. Ray Hiner points out, "conversion, the Puritan's overriding educational objective, was essentially affective in nature, but Puritan pedagogy, or preparation for conversion, was largely cognitive" (17).  The Puritan curriculum and pedagogical project moves toward what he aptly characterizes as the "rigorous 'final examination'" (Hiner 5) of conversion, a moment that tests the quality of the instruction as much as it does the student.  This educational practice recognizes instruction as an "efficient cause," even if "the final cause" is God (P. Miller, "Marrow" 93).

  So Adam and Eve, through their repentance, work toward being ready to receive grace, even though they can't make God give it to them.  Of course, God plans to give it to them because he fore-knows that they will be repentant.  Milton thus is able to preserve God's sovereignty and his reasonableness.

  Here are various useful sources: N. Ray Hiner, "The Cry of Sodom Enquired Into: Educational Analysis in Seventeenth-Century New England."  History of Education Quarterly (1973).  3-22, Perry Miller, "The Marrow of Puritan Divinity" 60-63, Charles Lloyd Cohen, God's caress : the psychology of Puritan religious experience (Oxford University Press, 1986), and Edmund Morgan, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea (Cornell University Press, 1963); the section of De Doctrina Christiana titled "Of Renovation and also of Vocation," which, in distinguishing penitence from faith, and temporary and historical faith from saving faith (CPW, 6:458-60), implies human activity in responding to God's call, and "Of the Visible Church," which addresses the role of ministers, who act as God's agents, although their activity "is not able to confer grace by itself" (CPW, 6:569).

  Most of this is excerpted from a piece I published on Raphael in MQ in 2001.--Margie

    Jeffery Hodges asks: 
      When, exactly, do Milton's Adam and Eve receive "prevenient grace"?

    Why do you want an "exact" moment?

    I would say they receive it at 10.1100-1101 at the phrase, "and both confess'd humbly thir faults." This is just four lines previous to the 11.1-8 passage you provided.  The passage at 10.220-223 which you also provided, is about the gift of a covering, both outward and, yes, inward, but nevertheless simply a sheild between the sinner and the "Father's sight."  The radical heart surgery takes place "exactly" when they confess. Of course the language at 10.1100 describing their confession, language whose source is Milton's narrative voice, is an almost exact duplicate --for five lines running-- of language Adam proposes a few lines earlier, 10.1087 ff, when he suggests to Eve his plan of action. This duplication perhaps may provoke another question of regression [cf your query on the pun of "Eve-ill"]: how could Adam plan his confession in such precise and apparently appropriate terms if some sort of grace had not already been at work. But then, work in the mind --seeing the benefit of confession and planning to confess-- is not the same as work in the heart, and the prevenient grace described at 11.1-8 is work in the heart: the stony heart, and the heart of flesh.



  Margaret Thickstun
  Elizabeth J. McCormack Professor of English
  Hamilton College
  198 College Hill Rd
  Clinton, NY 13323


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