by John Milton
Paradise Lost Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Book Number, Line Number
"Nor had they yet among the sons of Eve
Got them new names, till wand'ring o'er the earth
Through God's high suff'rance for the trial of man" (1.364-6).
This describes how Satan's associates were allowed to "wander" over the earth because of God's "suff'rance," or forbearance after the Fall. The most important word here is "trial," a word that comes up repeatedly in the poem and in Milton's other writings. It suggests something like a test of man's virtue, which is made manifest when he is tempted and refuses.
"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" (3.95-9).
God makes it clear that Adam will fall through his own "fault." Even though this sounds like predestination, it's actually foreknowledge. God sees all events – past, present, and future – as simultaneous or present, including Adam's fall, which hasn't happened yet (in the poem). Just because God knows it will happen though doesn't mean he makes it happen; He knows how Adam himself will make it happen.
"They therefore, as to right belonged,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their Maker or their making, or their fate,
As if predestination overruled
Their will disposed by absolute decree
Or high foreknowledge" (3.111-6).
This passage picks up where the previous left off; things like "fate," "predestination," or "high foreknowledge" don't control one's destiny; in fact, God here places the onus on man's "will," which isn't subject to such external forces as "fate," etc.