Paradise Lost

by: John Milton

Disobedience

Quotes Disobedience
Myself and all th’ angelic host that stand In sight of God entrhon’d, our happy state Hold, as you yours, while our obedience hold; On other surety none; freely we serve, Because we freely love, as in our will To love or not; in this we stand or fall: And some are fallen, to disobedience fallen, And so from heaven to deepest hell; O fall From what high state of bliss into what woe. (V, 535–543)

Raphael responds to Adam’s question, wondering how a creature created by God could be disobedient. Previously, God sent Raphael to Paradise to warn Adam and Eve about the danger lurking there, so that Adam and Eve could not blame their disobedience entirely on Satan as they were forewarned. Here, Raphael explains that God made Adam and Eve perfect, but he also gave them mutable, free minds. Adam and Eve can choose to love, according to their “will.” Raphael’s explanation sets up a justification for God’s plan.

Thus, measuring things in heaven by things on earth, At thy request, and that thou may’st beware By what is past, to thee I have reveal’d What might have else to human race been hid; The discord which befell, and war in heaven Among the angelic powers, and the deep fall Of those too high aspiring, who rebell’d With Satan; he who envies now thy state, Who now is plotting how he may seduce Thee also from obedience, that with him, Bereav’d of happiness, thou may’st partake His punishment, eternal misery; (VI, 893–904)

Raphael relates the story of the conflict between God and Satan that ends in war. Satan led the rebel army, and Michael led God’s army. This battle results in the rebels’ unending punishment. Notably, Raphael cites pride and vanity as two causes that led to Satan’s disobedience. After explaining the horrible results of Satan’s disobedience, Raphael warns Adam that Satan now plots against him and Eve, and that they should be careful. Adam and Eve have now received a warning about the consequences of disobedience, leaving the decision to disobey entirely in their hands.

I also must change Their nature, and revoke the high decree Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain’d Their freedom; they themselves ordain’d their fall. The first sort by their own suggestion fell, Self-temped, self-deprav’d: man falls, deceiv’d, By th’other first: man, therefore, shall find grace, The other none. In mercy, and justice both, Through heaven and earth, so shall my glory excel; But mercy, first and last, shall brightest shine. (III, 125–134)

God makes an important distinction about disobedience. Adam and Eve’s disobedience was a result of deception, which they both freely fell prey to. Satan’s disobedience, on the other hand, was generated entirely by himself as he degraded his own perfect nature. Both man and Satan must face God’s justice, but due to the cause behind man’s disobedience, men will be shown mercy. Ironically, the mercy for man will reveal God’s glory the most.

How much more, if we pray him, will his ear Be open, and his heart to pity incline, And teach us further by what means to shun Th’inclement seasons, rain, ice, hail, and snow, Which now the sky with various face begins[.] (X, 1060–1064)

Unlike Satan, who never repents, but only laments, Adam and Eve decide to repent for their sins. After considering suicide, Adam resolves that he and Eve should not kill themselves, but seek forgiveness for their actions. Adam demonstrates one way out of disobedience—prayer. Through prayer, God reveals his will to Adam and Eve. Through prayer, Adam and Eve experience what Satan cannot: true regret and repentance.

The law of God exact he shall fulfill Both by obedience and by love, though love Alone fulfil the law: thy punishment He shall endure by coming in the flesh To a reproachful life and cursed death, Proclaiming life to all who shall believe In his redemption, and that his obedience Imputed becomes theirs by faith, his merits To save them, not their own, though legal works. (XII, 402–410)

Michael explains to Adam how Adam and Eve’s disobedience produces a means for God to reveal his full power on earth. God’s own righteousness requires an appropriate legal remedy to balance the justice scales. The Son volunteers to become a man and take the punishment for humankind. Michael foretells the figure of Christ and the drama of the crucifixion, which will constitute a perfect obedience on behalf of humankind. Adam and Eve’s progeny will receive mercy as they accept the Son’s substitution.