[Milton-L] had removd

alan horn alanshorn at gmail.com
Sun Apr 6 23:54:32 EDT 2014


"[R]emov'd / The stonie from thir hearts" is an echo of the Father's decree
on the subject of grace in Book III:

Man shall not quite be lost, but sav'd who will,
Yet not of will in him, but grace in me
Freely voutsaft; once more I will renew
His lapsed powers, though forfeit and enthrall'd
By sin to foul exorbitant desires;
Upheld by me, yet once more he shall stand
On even ground against his mortal foe,
By me upheld, that he may know how frail
His fall'n condition is, and to me ow
All his deliv'rance, and to none but me.
Some I have chosen of peculiar grace
Elect above the rest; so is my will:
The rest shall hear me call, and oft be warnd
Thir sinful state, and to appease betimes
Th' incensed Deitie while offerd grace
Invites; for I will cleer thir senses dark,
What may suffice, and soft'n stonie hearts
To pray, repent, and bring obedience due.
To Prayer, repentance, and obedience due,
Though but endevord with sincere intent,
Mine ear shall not be slow, mine eye not shut.

"[S]av'd who will"--salvation requires an act of will (and will not be
denied to those who make it). "Yet not of will in him, but grace in me"--it
is not the will of fallen man that ultimately saves him (that would be a
Pelagian teaching); God must "renew / His lasped powers" to turn away from
sin (compare: "and made new flesh / Regenerate grow instead"). Leaving
aside the admittedly vexed question of who receives "peculiar grace" and
what it might entail, everyone else at least is promised sufficient grace
("[w]hat may suffice") that has the power to "soft'n stonie hearts / To
pray, repent, and bring obedience due," which sincere repentance will not
be for naught. This unhardening of hearts, then, is not a violation of
human freedom, but rather a restoring of the freedom to avoid sin that man
once enjoyed before the fall. In his fallen state, he needs God's help to
do so (he cannot be saved "of will in him" alone). But it takes an act of
will to avail himself of this aid. Heart-softening is what enables fallen
man in his state of total depravity to repent, but to be effective that
repentance must be "endevord with sincere intent."

As for the other matter, I still do not understand how a teaching that is
> Calvinist can't be called Calvinist, whatever else it is. And yeah--that
> kind of pointless harrumph is indeed pedantic.
>

I'm sorry you didn't see the point of my insistence that the need for
prevenient grace is not a specifically Calvinist doctrine. Let me try
again. You seemed to be making the assumption that prevenient grace is
necessarily irresistible, as Calvin would have it. I was concerned to
remind you that the need for prevenient grace is held by all Christians who
accept the doctrine of total depravity, which includes a lot more than just
Calvinists. It includes those, like Milton, who believe that while grace is
needed for repentance and salvation it can also be rejected at will. Thus,
as it says in some lines I quoted earlier today in a different thread,
salvation is available to all those, and ONLY those, "as offered life /
Neglect not, and the benefit embrace / By faith not void of works" (XII,
425-7).
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