In Paradise Lost, Adam questioned God's wisdom for not arming him against the threat of passion; so Samson's words here rebuke God's 'failure' that he was not granted wisdom equal enough to his strength. Samson's sense of guilt is the first step in his potential recovery. Conversely, his sense of abandonment by God and doubts about his vocation, lead him to despair. The Chorus first describes Samson, 'As one past hope, abandoned, / And by himself given over' (ll.120-1). During the first two acts of the drama he is continually tempted to yield to despair. This mortal sin of tristitia, places man farthest remove from God - a sin for which no forgiveness is possible, as Milton notes, it 'falls upon the reprobate alone'.
However Samson's despair, his tristitia, is reversed by the first movements of repentance the hero he has taken by recognising his guilt and taking responsibility for his fall. The purpose of the first Act is to outline Samson's remorse, sense of spiritual despair, and the germination of his spiritual regeneration and return to his vocation. However, Samson is not by any means moving towards a predestined end - his fate lies in his own use of reason and free will as he is called to respond to renovating grace. It is significant, too, that Milton develops the theme of Samson's regeneration (that is, his response to the vocatio generalis) in terms of his growing understanding of his special vocation. His initial realisation is that he has, through sin, failed in his role as deliverer; and this recognition leads, as he discusses his two marriages with the Chorus, to further insight into the causes of his fall from favour and takes him a step further in repentance:
'The first I saw at Timna, and she pleased
The marriage to the woman of Timnath contravened Nazaritic laws. However, it was divinely ordained and therefore Samson pursued it to 'begin Israel's deliverance, / The work to which was divinely called'. God's servants are required to obey His will, even if this entails contravening divine law. His marriage to Dalila, however, even though he sought to continue his vocation against the Philistines through it, was not divinely ordained; it was undertaken by Samson's own accord to pursue what he felt to be God's plan for the liberation of Israel ('I thought it lawful from my former act, / And the same end'). In marrying Dalila Samson was thus guilty of presumption - although his intentions were good, it was done without divine ordinance. Samson presumed that as God's elect his actions must always actively engaged in God's service, failing to realise God's will for the liberation of Israel must be executed in His own time.
As God's will is mysterious to mankind Samson must await further instruction. But the hero's desire for action led him to presume, and thus fall from grace. Presumption led to other sins which accentuate its gravity - namely the loss of his humility and pride. Samson's victories were God's will. However, Samson took personal pride in and credit for these feats, forgetting the divine origins of his strength, he acted 'like a petty god / ...admired of all and dreaded / On hostile ground, none daring my affront' (ll.329- 31). With this Samson's humility before God inevitably eroded.
Therefore, a precondition for Samson's reinstatement as an instrument of God is that he must be educated. He must learn the lesson of humility so that he can manifest absolute submission before God. He must learn the lesson of patience to patiently await God's commands. Furthermore, Samson must learn the lesson of faith - in spite of his sins and his present situation, he must trust divine mercy and have faith in his special calling. These are the preconditions or virtues that Samson must freely embrace to bring his spiritual regeneration and compensate for the three sins of pride, presumption and doubt he is guilty of. It is only through suffering and a series of 'good temptations' that Samson passes to purification and the fulfilment of his divinely ordained vocation to deliver Israel.
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