Catalogue Entry: THEM00303

Book I: Chapter 3

Author: John Milton

Source: A Treatise on Christian Doctrine, Compiled from the Holy Scriptures Alone, vol. 1 (Boston: 1825).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


The following lines contain the sum of the doctrine laid down by Milton in this and the following chapter, and the coincidences of expression are not unfrequently as striking as the similarity of reasoning.

...... So will fall

He and his faithless progeny: Whose fault ?

Whose but his own ? Ingrate, he had of me

All he could have; I made him just and right,

Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.

Such I created all the ethereal Powers

And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd;

Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.

Not free, what proof could they have given sincere

Of true allegiance, constant faith, or love,

Where only what they needs must do appear'd,

Not what they would ? what praise could they receive,

What pleasure I, from such obedience paid,

When will and reason (reason also is choice)

Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd,

Made passive both, had serv'd necessity,

Not me ? They therefore, as to right belong'd,

So were created, nor can justly accuse

Their Maker, or their making, or their fate,

As if predestination over-rul'd

Their will, dispos'd by absolute decree

Or high foreknowledge; they themselves decreed

Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew,

Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault,

Which had no less prov'd certain, unforeknown, &c. &c.

Paradise Lost, III. 95.


'Ex his verbis (nisi isti in navi manserint, &c.) liquet apostolum, qui optime mentem divini promissi intelligebat, non credidisse Deum absolute velle salvare eos omnes qui in navi erant; sed tantum sub hac conditione, si nihil eorum omitterent quæ ad suam incolumitatem facere poterant..... Sed conditionem in promisso quod acceperat inclusam fuisse, non obscure liquet ex verbis quibus conceptum fuit, Ecce Deus κεχάρισταί σοι omnes qui tecum navigant, id est, largitus est tibi hane gratiam, ut eos omnes tuo consilio a morte liberes, si illi obtemperarint; alioqui de iis actum erit, et ipsi culpa sua peribunt. Curcellæi Institutio, iii. 11. 4.


'But when I say that the divine decree or promise imprints a necessity upon things, it may to prevent misapprehension be needful to explain what kind of necessity this is, that so the liberty of second causes be not thereby wholly cashiered and taken away. For this therefore we are to observe that the schools distinguish of a twofold necessity, physical and logical, or causal and consequential; which terms are commonly thus explained; viz. that physical or causal necessity is when a thing by an efficient productive influence certainly and naturally produces such an effect,' &c. South's Sermon on the Resurrection, Vol. III. p. 398. 'Graviter itaque errare consendi sunt, qui duplicem necessitatem rebus tribuunt, ex providentia divini, unam immutabilitatis, quia cum Deus non mutet decretum, sicut dicitur Psal. xxxiii. 11. Mal. iii. 6. quiequid omnino decrevit, certissime evenit: alteram infallibilitatis, quia,' &c. Curcellæi Institutio, iii. 12. 16. See also lib. iv. 2. 5.


'Tertio causa efficiens per se efficit, aut per accidens. Tertium hoc par modorum efficiendi est ab Aristotele etiam et veteribus notatum.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 208. And again —'Quæ autem natura necessario, quæ consilio libere agunt; necessario agit quæ aliter agere non potest, sed ad unum quidpiam agendum determinatur, idque solum sua propensione agit, quæ necessitas naturæ dicitur .... Libere agit efficiens non hoc duntaxat ut naturale agens, sed hoc vel illud pro arbitrio, idque absolute, vel ex hypothesi.... Per accidens efficit causa quæ externa facultate efficit; id est, non sua; cum principium effecti est extra efficientem, externumque principium interno oppositum; sic nempe efficiens non efficit per se, sed per alind..... Coactione fit aliquid, cum efficiens vi cogitur ad effectum. Ut cum lapis sursum vel recta projicitur, qui suapte natura deorsum fertur. Hæc necessitas coactionis dicitur, et causis etiam liberis nonnunquam accidere potest.' ibid. 209.


The allusion appears to be to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans, who held that God predetermined the will by a physical influence, so that the Deity was the first cause of the action, and the creature the second cause, all the guilt of the sin being attributed to the latter party. With regard to the logical distinction, nearly the very words of the original occur elsewhere. 'Secundo, causa efficiens sola efficit, aut cum aliis. Earumque omnium sæpe alia principalis, alia minus principalis, sive adjuvans et ministra. Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 206.


Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,

As to his own edicts found contradicting.-

Samson Agonistes, 300.


So without least impulse or shadow of fate,

Or aught by me immutably foreseen,

They trespass, authors to themselves in all

Both what they judge, and what they choose; for so

I form'd them free; and free they must remain,

Till they enthrall themselves; I else must change

Their nature, and revoke the high decree

Unchangeable, eternal, which ordain'd

Their freedom; they themselves ordain'd their fall.

Paradise Lost, III. 120.


.............. Beyond this had been force,

And force upon free will hath here no place.

Paradise Lost, IX. 1174.


.............. such discourse bring on

As may advise him of his happy state,

Happiness in his power left free to will,

Left to his own free will, his will though free,

Yet mutable; whence warn him to beware

He swerve not, too secure. Paradise Lost, V. 233.


So Satan, speaking of himself:

Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand ?

Thou hadst; whom hast thou then or what to accuse,

But Heaven's free love dealt equally to all ? IV. 66.

And Raphael:

Myself, and all the angelick host, that stand

In sight of God enthron'd, our happy state

Hold, as you your's, while our obedience holds;

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-. V. 535.


............ thine and of all thy sons

The weal or woe in thee is plac'd; beware.

I in thy persevering shall rejoice,

And all the blest; stand fast, to stand or fall

Free in thine own arbitrement it lies.

Paradise Lost, VIII. 637.


According to the Supralapsarian doctrine, that a prescience of future contingents, antecedent to the divine decree, is an absurdity and impossibility.


..... God left free the will, for what obeys

Reason, is free; and reason he made right,

But bid her well be ware, and still erect. IX. 351.


...... What can 'scape the eye

Of God all-seeing, or deceive his heart

Omniscient? who in all things wise and just

Hindered not Satan to attempt the mind

Of Man, with strength entire and free will arm'd

Complete to have discover'd and repuls'd

Whatever wiles of foe or seeming friend.

Paradise Lost, X. 5.


'Hoc tantum obiter; fatum sive decretum Dei cogere neminem male facere; et ex hypothesi divinæ præscientiæ certa quidem esse omnia, non necessaria. Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 210.


..... no decree of mine

Concurring to necessitate his fall,

Or touch with lightest moment of impulse

His free will, to her own inclining left.

In even scale Paradise Lost, X. 42.

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