By David Gay
In 1644, Milton expected society as a manifestation of the dynamic strength he came across in scriptural texts: England was once possibly a country of emancipated, prophetic electorate. in 1660, writing against the recovery of the monarchy, Milton lamented England's lapse from prophetic power to political idolatry; however, he persisted to discover the cultural centrality of the Bible within the context of political reversal. His 3 significant poems- 'Paradise Lost', 'Paradise Regained' and 'Samson Agonistes'- renew his prior imaginative and prescient of a dynamic, scriptural society through putting forward the important inwardnessof judgment of right and wrong and feedback.
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Extra info for The Endless Kingdom: Milton's Scriptural Society
43 Milton challenges the power of magistrates in relation to conscience and the Spirit: “if anyone imposes any kind of sanction or dogma upon believers against their will, whether he acts in the name of the church or of a Christian magistrate, he is placing a yoke not only upon man but upon the Holy Spirit itself ” (CPW 6:590). In Civil Power he argues that God draws people “by the inward perswasive motions of his spirit and by his ministers; not by the outward compulsions of a magistrate and his officers” (CM 6:27).
How he uses biblical wisdom raises theoretical questions. In order to explore these questions, we need to compare Milton’s practice to contemporary theories of wisdom literature. Three theorists of biblical literature will facilitate this comparison. First, Carole Fontaine’s theory of proverb performance facilitates an evaluation of the structure and context of proverbial discourse. Second, James Williams’s theory of aphoristic order and counterorder provides a model of oppositional reading and interpretation that invites comparison with Milton’s practice.
Would ye have a commentarie thereupon? 80 George Herbert also corroborates this idea in “The Holy Scriptures II,” where he suggests that one’s life is a commentary on scripture: “Such are thy secrets, which my life makes good / And comments on thee. . ”81 Both King James and Herbert recover for us the perspective of the Bible as a dynamic, intertextual commentary as described by Jane Melbourne: “For Milton . . the Bible was one book, not a collection of books, its parts interwoven in ways that commented upon each other to produce a unified text.