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Ruddie and Gold: I nearer drew to gaze;
Of tasting those fair Apples, I resolv'd
Of that alluring fruit, urg'd me so keene.''
The belief, which has been so generally accepted in the Christian Church, that the forbidden fruit was the apple, is owing chiefly to Milton, if not to him alone.
It is not necessary to quote the famous lines in which the first parents of mankind are represented as driven out of Paradise ; but the graphic literalness of the verses serves to make Paradise or the Garden of Eden itself a reality which, when once it has been felt, is never forgotten.
They looking back, all th' Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happie seat,
The Christian world owes to Milton its conception of the Angelic Hosts, whether spirits of good or of evil, as ranged on the side of God or of His rebel enemy Satan. Let me cite his descriptions of Belial as typifying the supremely evil, and of Abdiel as typifying the supremely good, spirit :
Among innumerable false, unmov'd,
His Loyaltie he kept, his Love, his Zeale;
Nor number, nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind
But among the spirits of evil Satan himself stands preeminent. It is Milton's art which has invested the character of Satan with so striking a dignity that, in spite of his treason against the Almighty, he has commanded something of sympathy and even of respect from many Christians. It was remarked by Shakespeare, and after him by Sir John Suckling, that the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman.' But the Satan of Milton is more than a gentleman; he is a stern, indomitable, majestic figure. The reason or excuse for so telling a delineation of one who is the Prince of the Powers of Evil may perhaps be that Paradise Lost was originally intended not to be an epic, but a dramatic poem. It will be enough to cite the following passages descriptive of Satan's temper:
What matter where, if I be still the same,
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
But the interest of Milton's theological creed as affecting his writings, especially Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, lies principally in his strong inclination to the Arian or semi-Arian conception of Our Lord's personality. It is not necessary to discuss the varying phases of the theology which owes its birth and its name to Arius, the presbyter of Alexandria. Gibbon, whose insight into the minutia of Christian doctrine was as remarkable as his indifference to them all, defines the Arian position in the following words:
The Son, by whom all things were made, had been begotten before all worlds, and the longest of the astronomical periods could be compared only as a fleeting moment to the extent of his duration; yet this duration is not infinite, and there had been a time which preceded the ineffable generation of the Logos. On this only-begotten Son the Almighty Father had transfused his ample spirit, and impressed the effulgence of his glory. Visible image of invisible perfection, he saw, at an immeasurable distance beneath his feet, the thrones of the brightest archangels; yet he shone only with a reflected light, and, like the sons of the Roman emperors who were invested with the titles of Cæsar or Augustus, he governed the universe in obedience to the will of his Father and Monarch."
The Council of Nicaea A.D. 325, in the original form of the Creed now called Nicene, declared itself emphatically against Arianism. But the battle of the diphthong, as it has been caustically termed, or the controversy between the watchwords Homoousion and Homoiousion, was rather declared than decided by the Council of Nicaea. Arianism continued to flourish, and, indeed, to triumph, afterwards. The contemporaneous Councils of Seleucia in the East and of Ariminum in the West, A.D. 359, brought the Eastern and the Western worlds alike under the predominant influence of the Arian Creed. It was after the Council of Ariminum that Jerome wrote his memorable sentence 'Ingemuit totus orbis et Arianum se esse miratus est.' 13 The Council of Constantinople A.D. 381 dealt the death-blow to the prevalence of Arianism in the Roman Empire. But at a later date the invaders of the Empire still maintained the Arian. theology. The Goths, whose great leaders Alaric, Genseric, and Theodoric have written their names in letters of blood upon
11 Paradise Lost, i. 249-263.
12 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. iii. ch. xxi. p. 54.
Christian history, were Arians from the time of the famous Bishop Ulphilas, the translator of the Bible; the Lombards remained Arians up to the end of the sixth century, the reign of their Queen Theolinda; the Visi-Goths in Spain remained Arians until the reign of King Recared; nor was it until the Council of Toledo A.D. 589 that the clause 'Filioque,' or 'et a Filio,' was inserted in the Nicene Creed as a definite witness to the renunciation of Arianism in Spain.
Arianism is often set in opposition to Unitarianism; and, if the opposition, as it is generally stated, may be said to hold good, Milton was always rather an Arian than a Unitarian. To quote Masson's language about him:
In opposition to those who contend for the merely human nature of Christ he maintains the doctrine of the two natures of Christ, holding that no name short of The-Anthropos or God-Man adequately describes the Christ who walked and suffered on our earth."
But Unitarianism, as represented in the writings of Faustus Socinus, who is generally regarded as the author of Unitarian theology, went far beyond the meagre Unitarianism which has been advocated by some, although not perhaps the most illustrious, of his followers. Faustus Socinus held, it is true, that Jesus Christ was not pre-existent before His birth into the world, and that He neither stood nor stands in an eternal divine relation to God as His Father. But Faustus Socinus held also that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary by the operation of the Holy Spirit, that He came upon earth as God's commissioner to reveal God's law, that He exercised miraculous powers, that not only did He die, but on the third day after His death He rose from the grave, that His resurrection and His subsequent ascension were the attestations of His unique mission, that since His ascension He sits at God's right hand, and that He will one day return to the earth as the Judge of the living and the dead.
It is evident that such a Creed as this approximates to the Arian theology. History perhaps presents no stranger incident than the failure of Arianism after its brief and wide success. For the Arian conception of Christ's personality has commended itself to Christians of such high intellectuality and profound spirituality as Milton himself, Sir Isaac Newton, Locke and Semuel Clarke. Even John Stuart Mill, in the third of his posthumous essays, while decisively rejecting the divinity of Jesus Christ, could look with some appreciation upon an Arian or semi-Arian doctrine in regard to Christ's Personality.
There is little doubt that Milton, who in his early life was apparently an orthodox Christian, gradually lapsed into the
"Life of John Milton, vol. vi. p. 832.
acceptance of an Arian theology, and, indeed, towards the end of his life became almost a Unitarian after the model of Faustus Socinus. It is true that he always claimed the right of using as his own the language of the Trinitarian Creeds, but he interpreted the Creeds in an Arian and even in a Socinian sense. To quote one passage only; in his treatise Of True Religion, heresy, schism, toleration and what best means may be used against the growth of Popery, a treatise published so late in his life as A.D. 1673, the year before his death, he writes as follows:
The Arian and Socinian are charged to dispute against the Trinity; yet they affirm to believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost according to Scrip- ture and the Apostolic Creed. As for the terms Trinity, Tri-unity, Coessentiality, Tripersonality and the like, they reject them as scholastic notions not to be found in Scripture.
It is interesting to trace the development of Milton's theology. His Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity, although it was written in 1629, was first printed in 1645. In that ode he asserts the orthodox view of our Lord's divinity. The following passages are conclusive:
This is the Month, and this the happy morn
Of wedded Maid and Virgin Mother born,
That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,
Wherewith he wont at Heav'ns high Councel-Table,
He laid aside; and here with us to be,
Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day,
And chose with us a darksom House of mortal Clay.
Say Heav'nly Muse, shall not thy sacred vein
Similarly the hymn within the ode contains such lines as these relating to the Infant Christ :
Nature in awe to him
Had doff't her gawdy trim,
With her great Master so to sympathise:
Confounded that her Maker's eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.
Our Babe to shew his Godhead true,
Can in his swadling bands controul the damned crew.
It is evident that Milton remained in this orthodox state of mind as late as 1641, when he published his treatise Of Reforma