Paradise Lost "Freely We Serve, Because We Freely Love"

John Milton

"Freely We Serve, Because We Freely Love"

Context: After Adam and Eve have performed their morning devotions, they see through the trees the glorious shape of Raphael approaching them. Adam tells Eve to prepare a meal; Eve does so by collecting all kinds of fruits and pressing out unfermented grape juice. Adam bids Raphael welcome and offers him what Eve has prepared; for a while they talk, and then Raphael explains that angels require food, just as man does. Milton is here considering the angels as a link between God and man in the great chain of being, and therefore composed of rarefied matter instead of pure spirit. Raphael further explains that the angels have all the senses that man has. Finer fruits grow in heaven than on earth, but Raphael will by no means spurn the earthly produce: all things proceed from God, and they are all good until perverted. He explains gradations of being and says that man functions by means of reason and some intuition, the angels by intuition and some reason. He says that man may, through ascending certain steps, become ethereal if he remains obedient. Adam wants to know how he and Eve can possibly become disobedient. Raphael explains that as they are at the moment happy, let them thank God, Who made them so; if they remain happy, they will be so only through obedience: they were made perfect, but not immutable; their wills are free to do whatever they wish, as is true of the angels.

Our voluntary service He requires,
Not our necessitated, such with Him
Finds no acceptance, nor can find, for how
Can hearts, not free, be tried whether they serve
Willing or no, who will but what they must
By destiny, and can no other choose?
Myself and all th'angelic host that stand
In sight of God enthroned, our happy state
Hold, as you yours, 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, to disobedience fallen,
And so from heaven to deepest hell; O fall
From what high state of bliss into what woe!
. . .