Or shall the adversary thus obtain His end, and frustrate thine? (III, 156–157)
As God reveals his omniscient vision of man’s fall, the Son asks God an obvious question: Why would God with his omnipotence let his adversary win? How could God, knowing that Satan will win, let this happen? God’s responses to such questions reveals the rationale for his plan, which gradually unfolds over each book.
Behold me then, me for him, life for life I offer; on me let thine anger fall; Account me man: I for his sake will leave Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee Freely put off, and for him lastly ide Well pleas’d: on me let death wreak all his rage; (III, 236–241)
The Son offers his life as sacrifice on behalf of Adam and Eve. God just announced that Adam and Eve will fall and only a sacrifice made on their behalf will save them. God adds that, as a consequence for their sin, Adam and Eve will lose their immortality. Without this consequence, justice could not exist. While the angels lie quiet, the Son offers his life. The Son’s readiness to sacrifice reveals his divine capacity for compassion and love.
I through the ample air in triumph high Shall lead hell captive maugre hell; and show The powers of darkness bound. Thou at the sight Pleas’d, out of heaven shalt look down and smile; While by thee rais’d I ruin all my foes, Death last, and with his carcass glut the graves: Then, with the multitude of my redeem’d, Shall enter heaven, long absent, and return, Father, to see thy face, wherein no cloud Of anger shall remain; but peace assured And reconcilement: (III, 254–264)
The Son explains his understanding of the nature of his immense sacrifice. He understands that he will have to go to earth and suffer pain, torture, and death to fulfill his obligation. Yet, the Son also knows that he will return from his mission into the loving arms of his Father in heaven. The Son’s purity will be intact.
See Father, what first fruits on earth are sprung From thy implanted grace in man, these sighs And prayers, which in this golden censer, mix’d With incense, I thy priest before thee bring, Fruits of more pleasing savour from thy seed Sown with contrition in his heart, than those Which, his own hand manuring, all the trees Of Paradise could have produc’d, ere fallen From innocence[.] (XI, 22–30)
After God fully reveals his plan, the Son acts as an echo for God, a secondary voice justifying the ways of God. Here, the Son explains that the sweetness of grace achieved by humankind could never exist without the fall. The union man now has with God has been consciously chosen and embraced through repentance, rather than blind and perfect as when man lived in Paradise.
I shall temper so Justice with mercy, as may illustrate most Them fully satisfied, and thee appease. (X, 77–79)
The Son expresses his duty to his Father. As he goes down to Earth to fulfill his obligations, he promises to act in accordance with his Father’s will. The Son will lay the heavy hand of justice on Earth, but he will also act with mercy. The Son represents a perfect picture of a faithful and obedient Son, something which Adam falls short of.
Between thee and the woman I will put Enmity, and between thine and her seed; Her seed shall bruise thy head, thou bruise his heel. (X, 179–181)
The Son explains to Adam and Eve that from now on, man and woman will suffer strife. God, ultimately unknowable to man, must remain in the realm of Heaven. The Son, a derivative of God, can descend to Earth to carry out his Father’s work. The Son functions as a representation of God in action. As such, the Son speaks God’s harsh but just words.
Thy sorrow I will greatly multiply By thy conception; children thou shalt bring In sorrow forth; and to thy husband’s will Thine shall submit; he over thee shall rule. (X, 193–196)
The Son explains to Eve that through her sin, women will suffer in childbirth, will be burdened by their children, and must forever submit to their husband’s rule. We can imagine that the Son, a manifestation of compassion, feels enormous pity for Eve proclaiming the horrible fate of her kind, but he also knows that humankind will be reunited with God after death.
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