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With grief and gladness mixed, their mother viewed
Her martyred offspring and their race renewed;
Their corpse to perish, but their kind to last,
So much the deathless plant the dying fruit surpassed.
Panting and pensive now she ranged alone,
And wandered in the kingdoms once her own.
The common hunt, though from their rage restrained
By sov'reign pow'r, her company disdained,
Grinned as they passed, and with a glaring eye
Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
'T is true she bounded by, and tripped so light
They had not time to take a steady sight;
For Truth has such a face and such a mien
As to be loved needs only to be seen.
The bloody Bear, an independent beast,
Unlicked to form, in groans her hate expressed.
Among the timorous kind the quaking Hare
Professed neutrality, but would not swear.
Next her the buffoon Ape, as atheists use,
Mimicked all sects, and had his own to choose;
Still when the Lion looked, his knees he bent,
And paid at church a courtier's compliment.
The bristled baptist Boar, impure as he,
But whit'ned with the foam of sanctity,
With fat pollutions filled the sacred place,
And mountains levelled in his furious race;
So first rebellion founded was in grace.
But since the mighty ravage which he made
In German forests had his guilt betrayed,
With broken tusks and with a borrowed name
He shunned the vengeance and concealed the shame,
So lurked in sects unseen. With greater guile
False Reynard fed on consecrated spoil:
The graceless beast by Athanasius first
Was chased from Nice, then by Socinus nursed;
His impious race their blasphemy renewed,
And Nature's King through Nature's optics viewed;
Reversed they viewed Him lessened to their eye,
Nor in an infant could a God descry.
New swarming sects to this obliquely tend;
Hence they began, and here they all will end.
What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the public scale?
But, gracious God, how well dost Thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring guide!
Thy throne is darkness in th' abyss of light,
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
O teach me to believe Thee thus concealed,
And search no farther than Thyself revealed;
But her alone for my director take
Whom Thou hast promised never to forsake!
My thoughtless youth was winged with vain desires;
My manhood, long misled by wand'ring fires,
Followed false lights; and when their glimpse was gone,
My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
75 Such was I, such by nature still I am; Be Thine the glory, and be mine the shame. Good life be now my task: my doubts are done; What more could fright my faith than Three in One? Can I believe Eternal God could lie
80 Disguised in mortal mould and infancy, That the great Maker of the world could die, And after that trust my imperfect sense Which calls in question His omnipotence? Can I my reason to my faith compel, And shall my sight and touch and taste rebel? Superior faculties are set aside; Shall their subservient organs be my guide ? Then let the moon usurp the rule of day, And winking tapers show the sun his way; For what my senses can themselves perceive I need no revelation to believe. Can they who say the Host should be descried By sense, define a body glorified, Impassable, and penetrating parts ?
95 Let them declare by what mysterious arts He shot that body through th' opposing might Of bolts and bars impervious to the light, And stood before His train confessed in open sight; For since thus wondrously He passed, 't is plain One single place two bodies did contain, And sure the same Omnipotence as well
Can make one body in more places dwell.
Let Reason then at her own quarry fly,
But how can finite grasp Infinity?
Too boastful Britain, please thyself no more
That beasts of prey are banished from thy shore;
The Bear, the Boar, and every salvage name,
Wild in effect, though in appearance tame,
Lay waste thy woods, destroy thy blissful bow'r,
And, muzzled though they seem, the mutes devour.
More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race
Appear with belly gaunt and famished face;
Never was so deformed a beast of grace.
His ragged tail betwixt his legs he wears,
Close clapped for shame; but his rough crest he rears,
And pricks up his predestinating ears.
His wild disordered walk, his haggard eyes,
Did all the bestial citizens surprise:
Though feared and hated, yet he ruled awhile,
I 20 As captain or companion of the spoil.
The Panther, sure the noblest next the Hind,
And fairest creature of the spotted kind,
Oh, could her in-born stains be washed away,
She were too good to be beast of prey !
How can I praise or blame and not offend,
Or how divide the frailty from the friend?
Her faults and virtues lie so mixed that she
Nor wholly stands condemned nor wholly free.
Then, like her injured Lion, let me speak;
He cannot bend her, and he would not break.
Unkind already, and estranged in part,
The Wolf begins to share her wand'ring heart;
Though unpolluted yet with actual ill,
She half commits who sins but in her will.
If, as our dreaming Platonists report,
There could be spirits of a middle sort,
Too black for heav'n and yet too white for hell,
Who just dropped half-way down, nor lower fell,
So poised, so gently she descends from high,
It seems a soft dismission from the sky.
Her house not ancient, whatsoe'er pretence
Her clergy heralds make in her defence;
A second century not half-way run,
Since the new honours of her blood begun.
“Before the Word was written,” said the Hind,
“Our Saviour preached His faith to human kind;
From His Apostles the first age received
Eternal truth, and what they taught believed.
Thus by tradition faith was planted first;
Succeeding flocks succeeding pastors nursed.
This was the way our wise Redeemer chose,
Who sure could all things for the best dispose,
To fence His fold from their encroaching foes.
He could have writ Himself, but well foresaw
Th' event would be like that of Moses' law;
Some difference would arise, some doubts remain,
Like those which yet the jarring Jews maintain.
No written laws can be so plain, so pure,
But wit may gloss and malice may obscure-
Not those indited by His first command;
A prophet graved the text, an angel held his hand.
Thus faith was ere the written Word appeared,
And men believed, not what they read, but heard.
But since th' Apostles could not be confined
To these or those, but severally designed
Their large commission round the world to blow,
To spread their faith they spread their labours too.
Yet still their absent flock their pains did share;
They hearkened still, for love produces care.
And as mistakes arose or discords fell,
Or bold seducers taught 'em to rebel,
As charity grew cold or faction hot,
Or long neglect their lessons had forgot,
For all their wants they wisely did provide,
And preaching by epistles was supplied:
So great physicians cannot all attend,
But some they visit and to some they send.
Yet all those letters were not writ to all;
Nor first intended but occasional,
Their absent sermons; nor, if they contain
All needful doctrines, are those doctrines plain :
Clearness by frequent preaching must be wrought;
They writ but seldom, but they daily taught;
And what one saint has said of holy Paul,
'He darkly writ,' is true applied to all.
For this obscurity could Heav'n provide
More prudently than by a living guide,
As doubts arose the difference to decide?
A guide was therefore needful, therefore made;
And, if appointed, sure to be obeyed.
Thus, with due rev'rence to th' Apostles' writ,
By which my sons are taught, to which submit,
I think those truths their sacred works contain
The Church alone can certainly explain,
That following ages, leaning on the past,
May rest upon the primitive at last.
Nor would I thence the Word no rule infer,
But none without the Church-interpreter;
Because, as I have urged before, 't is mute,
And is itself the subject of dispute.
But what th' Apostles their successors taught,
They to the next, from them to us is brought-
Th' undoubted sense which is in Scripture sought.
From hence the Church is armed, when errors rise,
To stop their entrance and prevent surprise;
And, safe entrenched within, her foes without defies.
By these, all fest’ring sores her Councils heal,
Which time or has disclosed or shall reveal;
For discord cannot end without a last appeal.
Nor can a Council national decide
But with subordination to her guide
(I wish the cause were on that issue tried);
Much less the Scripture:—for suppose debate
Betwixt pretenders to a fair estate,
Bequeathed by some legator's last intent
(Such is our dying Saviour's Testament);
The will is proved, is opened, and is read;