I have been reading the prose and poetry of John Milton with great interest. It is not easy reading since the style of writing fits the practices of the 17th century. However, his goals and ideas illuminate God’s directions to Christians in all ages.
Milton was very aware of how the popular writers in his time had excellent abilities but that the content of their works encouraged vulgarity and excesses. God inspired him to resist seeking success and popularity by incorporating the same vulgar subject matter and moral transgressions in his writings. He accepted God’s vocation for him to bring an even higher standard of scholarship and poetic ability than his contemporaries, but to resist their worldly motivations and adaptations to the culture.
Even more important to him was his God-given desire to write an epic surpassing the epics of Homer, Virgil and Tasso for the sake of revealing God’s ability to inspire a Christian to outshine all non-Christian writings throughout the ages. He also connected the superior writing he would achieve as an inspired Christian writer with a desire to honor Great Britain. He connected his God-given talent with a sense that God had called the “British islands” to a special role in God’s plans for salvation and restoration.
Milton’s desire to impact his culture by writing outstanding prose and poetry can be an inspiration to those in the arts and learning today. Christians have the same opportunity to impact our culture if they allow God and put in the time and effort to perfect their skills in the arts and education. Milton wrote the greatest epic poem of all times when he wrote Paradise Lost under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He succeeded in surpassing the writers of his era and the epics of the past. He was the best at what he did, and it took years of study and research besides God’s inspiration to achieve God’s purpose.
Christians can produce the same levels of poetry, prose, films, fine arts, sculptures, dance, choreography, and teaching through hard work and spiritual dedication. They should be the best in all of the areas of arts and education. Through excellence, Christians’ talents will not be ignored by our increasingly secular society. Dedicated, talented Christians can touch the human spirit and lift up the culture in our nation. They have a vocation to do for our country what Milton did for his.
“I began thus far to assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home, and not less to an inward prompting which now grew daily upon me, that by labour and intense study (which I take to be my portion in this life), joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die. . . .That what the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Rome, or modern Italy, and those Hebrews of old did for their country, I, in my proportion, with this over and above, of being a Christian, might do for mine; not caring to be once named abroad, though perhaps I could attain to that, but content with these British islands as my world”; (John Milton, “Reasons of Church Government Urged Against Prelaty” http://www.bartleby.com/209/415.html )