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John MiltonLife, Writing, Reputation$
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Paul Hammond and Blair Worden

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264706

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264706.001.0001

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Milton’s Christian Temper

Milton’s Christian Temper

(p.107) 6 Milton’s Christian Temper
John Milton

N. H. Keeble

British Academy

This chapter discusses Milton's Christian temper. It is believed Milton did not belong to any worshipping Christian community. No existing records ecist to attest that he attended Christian service, or associated with a specific parish, or joined congregations. In an age of great divines, pastors, and preachers, Milton acknowledged no indebtedness to any man's ministerial support or guidance. The practice of his Christianity was non-congregational, domestic, and private. Milton's external Christian observance and inner spiritual life were both invisible. He never offered anything approaching a conversion narrative. When Milton approached matters of personal belief, it is intellectually and not experientially. In his Miltonic equivalent of a spiritual biography, the De Doctrina Christiana, he asserted that his search for truth was from his own original systematic exposition of the Christina doctrine. In his The Reason of Church-Government, Milton illustrates his own religious life by illustrating the coercive authority of the Episcopal Church and his conscientious refusal to submit to it. His anticlerical stance and his firm belief in the free debate and liberty to religion encouraged him to write prose and poems of unwavering intolerance of Roman Catholicism. Milton's Christian vision is neither congregation nor a remnant but that of just one man, who is reliant on his own intellectual and spiritual resource, and who, regardless of popular opinion, walked with integrity. Among Milton's critical and anticlerical works are Paradise Lost, The Reason of Church-Government, and Samson Agonistes.

Keywords:   Milton's Christian temper, Milton's Christianity, spiritual biography, De Doctrina Christiana, Church-Government, anticlerical, free debate, liberty to religion, Roman Catholicism

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