Paradise Lost Book 2: Line 385-386 - Explanation

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Line. 385-386: But their spite.....glory to augment

      In the course of his address to the conclave in hell, Beelzebub proposed that the fallen angels should make an excursion to the newly created universe, and seduce Man from his allegiance to the Almighty, which would be a surer way of avenging themselves on Him than the many proposals made by others. Having made this proposition, Beelzebub stopped for some while to study its effect upon his listeners. The poet then comments upon his devilish counsel. He says that Beelzebub was not so much its original author as Satan himself, for whence, he asks, "But from the author of all ill, could spring so deep a malice (as) to confound the race of mankind in one root and to mingle and involve Earth with hell, done all to spite the great Creator?" But the poet feels assured, that all this spite against God would only serve not so much disconfit him as to increase His glory.

      The devils may hope, as Beelzebub had said, that on the seduction of man God would repent his deed, and abolish His own works. They may even rejoice that they could bring about His confusion. But God’s glory will in no way be diminished; for, quite differently from what they had anticipated, God, who in his foreknowledge know that man will be perverted and fall away from his obedience, had resolved to be merciful to man. Milton explains God’s attitude to Satan and Beelzebub's plan in the third book of the epic. God is there made to distinguish between the sin of the fallen angels and the sin of man. He had endowed both with freedom of will, so that their obedience to Him might be more willing. Satan and his crew abused the freedom granted to them, and fell of their own volition; to them, therefore, there is no redemption. But man would fall through Satan. "Man falls deceived by the other first: Man therefore shall find grace, the other none: in Mercy and Justice both, through Heaven and Earth, so shall my glory excel. But Mercy first and last shall brightest shine."

      The mercy that God will show mankind is thus what will augment. His glory. Milton thus make it plain that the plan of delivish revenge, though it might succeed against man, would fail against God; on the other hand, it would only tend to make more glorious.

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