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The Significance Of The Prophesied Kingdom

By Author: snoopy
Total Articles: 191

The investigation of individual worship as a key component of public worship locates the origins of the radical views on liturgy and prayer held by this 'independent Independent' in his early anti-episcopal tracts, which Simpson surveys in building his case against biographers' claims about Milton's divorce from the visible church and worship practices. Along with solidarity, family, and nonconformist liturgies of various kinds, religious verse is said to perform alternative ceremonial and liturgical functions, thus enacting the Protestant alignment of the Links Of London Charms sacred with the Word rather than with sacramental rites. Chapter 5 studies the lesson on the significance of the prophesied kingdom as 'Milton's most compelling representation of the church', and argues that the reliance on astrological and apocalyptic references in particular confirms the poet's continuing involvement in the struggles facing the visible and the universal church.

What David Gay in The Endless Kingdom: Milton's Scriptural Society (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002) designates ... as the textual grounds of community emerges as a prevalent theme in Spiritual Architecture. Reading and writing galvanise the church community, the members of which are united not by physical proximity, but through the practices of textual exegesis. Simpson's definition of the community is derived from historian Brian Stock's work on orality and writing practices in the formation of social organisations. Transferred to a study of Milton's literary ecclesiology, the organisation manifests itself as a 'congregation' defined not by temporal or geographical coordinates but by a collective attentiveness to the reception, recitation, and inscription of the Word.

In the past couple decades; a rich body of scholarship on book history, print culture, and reading habits has characterized textual communities in terms of communities of the material book. That Simpson's treatment of textual communities lacks historical and material underpinning and also neglects to accommodate readers of the printed 1671 volume containing Paradise Regained 'To which is added Samson Agonistes' is surprising. An examination of the poems' audiences and interrelationships would confirm as well as complicate Simpson's formulation of Milton's imaginative community and the progressive narrative of his literary ecclesiology. Moreover, it would enrich the associations Simpson insists on throughout between Milton and the Son. At the end of Spiritual Architecture, Simpson acknowledges the risks of inferring an author's thoughts and beliefs from literature (p. 183). That inference is, however, a given for Simpson as it is for many Miltonists. Like Michael Lieb's Theological Milton, Stephen M. Fallon's Milton's Peculiar Grace: Self Representation and Authority (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007) nevertheless features an agonistic, divided Milton whose two works in the 1671 volume depict the poet's early and late Links Of London Bracelets self-representations respectively. The former portrays Milton's imitatio Christi, while Samson Agonistes exhibits a different and darker side of the poet's self-conception (Fallon, p. 250). This is a side Simpson's community of readers would discover by reading ahead but also by observing the variations in the composition of the community of believers before and after 1660, and by acknowledging the theological, heretical, and ecclesiological positions in Milton's earlier works, including De Doctrina and Paradise Lost, that are not wholly in consonance with Paradise Regained.

The value of literary evidence is successfully established in Spiritual Architecture. Simpson also deserves credit for showcasing the richness and the historical and topical relevances of Paradise Regained, a work customarily eclipsed in favour of the other great poems, and for securing a place for the brief epic in the cultural history of Reformation theology and ecclesiology. Simpson thereby offers a corrective to critics' assumptions about Milton's rescinding of his ecclesiology. At the same time, the nature of the church as a textual community remains frustratingly insubstantial throughout the book.

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