"Justify The Ways Of God To Men"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 178

Context: One of man's greatest theological problems has been to reconcile human wishes with reality; often God's ways have seemed inscrutable and have run counter to man's pleasure. In Calvinistic theology, particularly, God is sovereign, and Milton was well versed in Calvinism. It is therefore not surprising to find him announcing very early in Paradise Lost, his great Christian epic poem, that one of his purposes, probably the primary purpose, is to show mankind that God's way is the right way. In Milton's view, man must submit to God. Milton's sonnet, "On His Blindness," and his play, Samson Agonistes, also illustrate this view, which must have been some solace to the poet in his later years, when he was suffering blindness, political defeat, and domestic tragedy. At the end of the verse-paragraph opening Paradise Lost, in which Milton invokes the help of the Holy Spirit, he writes:

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What in me is dark
Illumine; what is low, raise and support;
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.

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