Part 4 out of 7
But hardy sailors swell with tears the deep!
The tide restrain'd her course, and more amazed, 610
The twin-stars on the royal brothers gazed:
While this sole fear--
Does trouble to our suffering hero bring,
Lest next the popular rage oppress the king!
Thus parting, each for the other's danger grieved,
The shore the king, and seas the prince received.
Go, injured hero! while propitious gales,
Soft as thy consort's breath, inspire thy sails;
Well may she trust her beauties on a flood,
Where thy triumphant fleets so oft have rode! 620
Safe on thy breast reclined, her rest be deep,
Rock'd like a Nereid by the waves asleep;
While happiest dreams her fancy entertain,
And to Elysian fields convert the main!
Go, injured hero! while the shores of Tyre
At thy approach so silent shall admire,
Who on thy thunder still their thoughts employ,
And greet thy landing with a trembling joy!
On heroes thus the prophet's fate is thrown,
Admired by every nation but their own; 630
Yet while our factious Jews his worth deny,
Their aching conscience gives their tongue the lie.
Even in the worst of men the noblest parts
Confess him, and he triumphs in their hearts,
Whom to his king the best respects commend
Of subject, soldier, kinsman, prince, and friend;
All sacred names of most divine esteem,
And to perfection all sustain'd by him;
Wise, just, and constant, courtly without art,
Swift to discern and to reward desert; 640
No hour of his in fruitless ease destroy'd,
But on the noblest subjects still employ'd:
Whose steady soul ne'er learn'd to separate
Between his monarch's interest and the state;
But heaps those blessings on the royal head,
Which he well knows must be on subjects shed.
On what pretence could then the vulgar rage
Against his worth and native rights engage?
Religious fears their argument are made--
Religious fears his sacred rights invade! 650
Of future superstition they complain,
And Jebusitic worship in his reign:
With such alarms his foes the crowd deceive,
With dangers fright, which not themselves believe.
Since nothing can our sacred rites remove,
Whate'er the faith of the successor prove:
Our Jews their ark shall undisturb'd retain,
At least while their religion is their gain,
Who know by old experience Baal's commands
Not only claim'd their conscience, but their lands; 660
They grudge God's tithes, how therefore shall they yield
An idol full possession of the field?
Grant such a prince enthroned, we must confess
The people's sufferings than that monarch's less,
Who must to hard conditions still be bound,
And for his quiet with the crowd compound;
Or should his thoughts to tyranny incline,
Where are the means to compass the design?
Our crown's revenues are too short a store,
And jealous Sanhedrims would give no more. 670
As vain our fears of Egypt's potent aid,
Not so has Pharaoh learn'd ambition's trade,
Nor ever with such measures can comply,
As shock the common rules of policy;
None dread like him the growth of Israel's king,
And he alone sufficient aids can bring;
Who knows that prince to Egypt can give law,
That on our stubborn tribes his yoke could draw:
At such profound expense he has not stood,
Nor dyed for this his hands so deep in blood; 680
Would ne'er through wrong and right his progress take,
Grudge his own rest, and keep the world awake,
To fix a lawless prince on Judah's throne,
First to invade our rights, and then his own;
His dear-gain'd conquests cheaply to despoil,
And reap the harvest of his crimes and toil.
We grant his wealth vast as our ocean's sand,
And curse its fatal influence on our land,
Which our bribed Jews so numerously partake,
That even an host his pensioners would make. 690
From these deceivers our divisions spring,
Our weakness, and the growth of Egypt's king;
These, with pretended friendship to the state,
Our crowds' suspicion of their prince create;
Both pleased and frighten'd with the specious cry,
To guard their sacred rites and property.
To ruin thus the chosen flock are sold,
While wolves are ta'en for guardians of the fold;
Seduced by these, we groundlessly complain,
And loathe the manna of a gentle reign: 700
Thus our forefathers' crooked paths are trod--
We trust our prince no more than they their God.
But all in vain our reasoning prophets preach,
To those whom sad experience ne'er could teach,
Who can commence new broils in bleeding scars,
And fresh remembrance of intestine wars;
When the same household mortal foes did yield,
And brothers stain'd with brothers' blood the field;
When sons' cursed steel the fathers' gore did stain,
And mothers mourn'd for sons by fathers slain! 710
When thick as Egypt's locusts on the sand,
Our tribes lay slaughter'd through the promised land,
Whose few survivors with worse fate remain,
To drag the bondage of a tyrant's reign:
Which scene of woes, unknowing we renew,
And madly, even those ills we fear, pursue;
While Pharaoh laughs at our domestic broils,
And safely crowds his tents with nations' spoils.
Yet our fierce Sanhedrim, in restless rage,
Against our absent hero still engage, 720
And chiefly urge, such did their frenzy prove,
The only suit their prince forbids to move,
Which, till obtain'd, they cease affairs of state,
And real dangers waive for groundless hate.
Long David's patience waits relief to bring,
With all the indulgence of a lawful king,
Expecting still the troubled waves would cease,
But found the raging billows still increase.
The crowd, whose insolence forbearance swells,
While he forgives too far, almost rebels. 730
At last his deep resentments silence broke,
The imperial palace shook, while thus he spoke--
Then Justice wait, and Rigour take her time,
For lo! our mercy is become our crime:
While halting Punishment her stroke delays,
Our sovereign right, Heaven's sacred trust, decays!
For whose support even subjects' interest calls,
Woe to that kingdom where the monarch falls!
That prince who yields the least of regal sway,
So far his people's freedom does betray. 740
Right lives by law, and law subsists by power;
Disarm the shepherd, wolves the flock devour.
Hard lot of empire o'er a stubborn race,
Which Heaven itself in vain has tried with grace!
When will our reason's long-charm'd eyes unclose,
And Israel judge between her friends and foes?
When shall we see expired deceivers' sway,
And credit what our God and monarchs say?
Dissembled patriots, bribed with Egypt's gold,
Even Sanhedrims in blind obedience hold; 750
Those patriots falsehood in their actions see,
And judge by the pernicious fruit the tree.
If aught for which so loudly they declaim,
Religion, laws, and freedom, were their aim,
Our senates in due methods they had led,
To avoid those mischiefs which they seem'd to dread:
But first, e'er yet they propp'd the sinking state,
To impeach and charge, as urged by private hate,
Proves that they ne'er believed the fears they press'd,
But barbarously destroy'd the nation's rest! 760
Oh! whither will ungovern'd senates drive,
And to what bounds licentious votes arrive?
When their injustice we are press'd to share,
The monarch urged to exclude the lawful heir;
Are princes thus distinguish'd from the crowd,
And this the privilege of royal blood?
But grant we should confirm the wrongs they press,
His sufferings yet were than the people's less;
Condemn'd for life the murdering sword to wield,
And on their heirs entail a bloody field. 770
Thus madly their own freedom they betray,
And for the oppression which they fear make way;
Succession fix'd by Heaven, the kingdom's bar,
Which once dissolved, admits the flood of war;
Waste, rapine, spoil, without the assault begin,
And our mad tribes supplant the fence within.
Since then their good they will not understand,
'Tis time to take the monarch's power in hand;
Authority and force to join with skill,
And save the lunatics against their will. 780
The same rough means that 'suage the crowd, appease
Our senates raging with the crowd's disease.
Henceforth unbiass'd measures let them draw
From no false gloss, but genuine text of law;
Nor urge those crimes upon religion's score,
Themselves so much in Jebusites abhor.
Whom laws convict, and only they, shall bleed,
Nor pharisees by pharisees be freed.
Impartial justice from our throne shall shower,
All shall have right, and we our sovereign power. 790
He said, the attendants heard with awful joy,
And glad presages their fix'd thoughts employ;
From Hebron now the suffering heir return'd,
A realm that long with civil discord mourn'd;
Till his approach, like some arriving God,
Composed and heal'd the place of his abode;
The deluge check'd that to Judea spread,
And stopp'd sedition at the fountain's head.
Thus, in forgiving, David's paths he drives,
And, chased from Israel, Israel's peace contrives. 800
The field confess'd his power in arms before,
And seas proclaim'd his triumphs to the shore;
As nobly has his sway in Hebron shown,
How fit to inherit godlike David's throne.
Through Sion's streets his glad arrival's spread,
And conscious faction shrinks her snaky head;
His train their sufferings think o'erpaid to see
The crowd's applause with virtue once agree.
Success charms all, but zeal for worth distress'd,
A virtue proper to the brave and best; 810
'Mongst whom was Jothran--Jothran always bent
To serve the crown, and loyal by descent;
Whose constancy so firm, and conduct just,
Deserved at once two royal masters' trust;
Who Tyre's proud arms had manfully withstood
On seas, and gather'd laurels from the flood;
Of learning yet no portion was denied,
Friend to the Muses and the Muses' pride.
Nor can Benaiah's worth forgotten lie,
Of steady soul when public storms were high; 820
Whose conduct, while the Moor fierce onsets made,
Secured at once our honour and our trade.
Such were the chiefs who most his sufferings mourn'd,
And view'd with silent joy the prince return'd;
While those that sought his absence to betray,
Press first their nauseous false respects to pay;
Him still the officious hypocrites molest,
And with malicious duty break his rest.
While real transports thus his friends employ,
And foes are loud in their dissembled joy, 830
His triumphs, so resounded far and near,
Miss'd not his young ambitious rival's ear;
And as when joyful hunters' clamorous train,
Some slumbering lion wakes in Moab's plain,
Who oft had forced the bold assailants yield,
And scatter'd his pursuers through the field,
Disdaining, furls his mane and tears the ground,
His eyes inflaming all the desert round,
With roar of seas directs his chasers' way,
Provokes from far, and dares them to the fray: 840
Such rage storm'd now in Absalom's fierce breast,
Such indignation his fired eyes confess'd.
Where now was the instructor of his pride?
Slept the old pilot in so rough a tide,
Whose wiles had from the happy shore betray'd,
And thus on shelves the credulous youth convey'd?
In deep revolving thoughts he weighs his state,
Secure of craft, nor doubts to baffle fate;
At least, if his storm'd bark must go adrift,
To balk his charge, and for himself to shift, 850
In which his dexterous wit had oft been shown,
And in the wreck of kingdoms saved his own.
But now, with more than common danger press'd,
Of various resolutions stands possess'd,
Perceives the crowd's unstable zeal decay
Lest their recanting chief the cause betray,
Who on a father's grace his hopes may ground,
And for his pardon with their heads compound.
Him therefore, e'er his fortune slip her time.
The statesman plots to engage in some bold crime 860
Past pardon--whether to attempt his bed,
Or threat with open arms the royal head,
Or other daring method, and unjust,
That may confirm him in the people's trust.
But failing thus to ensnare him, nor secure
How long his foil'd ambition may endure,
Plots next to lay him by as past his date,
And try some new pretender's luckier fate;
Whose hopes with equal toil he would pursue,
Nor care what claimer's crown'd, except the true. 870
Wake, Absalom! approaching ruin shun,
And see, O see, for whom thou art undone!
How are thy honours and thy fame betray'd,
The property of desperate villains made!
Lost power and conscious fears their crimes create,
And guilt in them was little less than fate;
But why shouldst thou, from every grievance free,
Forsake thy vineyards for their stormy sea?
For thee did Canaan's milk and honey flow,
Love dress'd thy bowers, and laurels sought thy brow; 880
Preferment, wealth, and power thy vassals were,
And of a monarch all things but the care.
Oh! should our crimes again that curse draw down,
And rebel-arms once more attempt the crown,
Sure ruin waits unhappy Absalom,
Alike by conquest or defeat undone.
Who could relentless see such youth and charms
Expire with wretched fate in impious arms?
A prince so form'd, with earth's and Heaven's applause,
To triumph o'er crown'd heads in David's cause: 890
Or grant him victor, still his hopes must fail,
Who, conquering, would not for himself prevail;
The faction whom he trusts for future sway,
Him and the public would alike betray;
Amongst themselves divide the captive state,
And found their hydra-empire in his fate!
Thus having beat the clouds with painful flight,
The pitied youth, with sceptres in his sight
(So have their cruel politics decreed),
Must by that crew, that made him guilty, bleed! 900
For, could their pride brook any prince's sway,
Whom but mild David would they choose to obey?
Who once at such a gentle reign repine,
The fall of monarchy itself design:
From hate to that their reformations spring,
And David not their grievance, but the king.
Seized now with panic fear the faction lies,
Lest this clear truth strike Absalom's charm'd eyes,
Lest he perceive, from long enchantment free,
What all beside the flatter'd youth must see: 910
But whate'er doubts his troubled bosom swell,
Fair carriage still became Achitophel,
Who now an envious festival installs,
And to survey their strength the faction calls,--
Which fraud, religious worship too must gild.
But oh! how weakly does sedition build!
For lo! the royal mandate issues forth,
Dashing at once their treason, zeal, and mirth!
So have I seen disastrous chance invade,
Where careful emmets had their forage laid, 920
Whether fierce Vulcan's rage the furzy plain
Had seized, engender'd by some careless swain;
Or swelling Neptune lawless inroads made,
And to their cell of store his flood convey'd;
The commonwealth broke up, distracted go,
And in wild haste their loaded mates o'erthrow:
Even so our scatter'd guests confusedly meet,
With boil'd, baked, roast, all justling in the street;
Dejecting all, and ruefully dismay'd,
For shekel without treat or treason paid. 930
Sedition's dark eclipse now fainter shows,
More bright each hour the royal planet grows,
Of force the clouds of envy to disperse,
In kind conjunction of assisting stars.
Here, labouring muse! those glorious chiefs relate,
That turn'd the doubtful scale of David's fate;
The rest of that illustrious band rehearse,
Immortalized in laurell'd Asaph's verse:
Hard task! yet will not I thy flight recall,
View heaven, and then enjoy thy glorious fall. 940
First write Bezaliel, whose illustrious name
Forestalls our praise, and gives his poet fame.
The Kenites' rocky province his command,
A barren limb of fertile Canaan's land;
Which for its generous natives yet could be
Held worthy such a president as he.
Bezaliel, with each grace and virtue fraught,
Serene his looks, serene his life and thought;
On whom so largely nature heap'd her store,
There scarce remain'd for arts to give him more! 950
To aid the crown and state his greatest zeal,
His second care that service to conceal;
Of dues observant, firm to every trust,
And to the needy always more than just;
Who truth from specious falsehood can divide,
Has all the gownsmen's skill without their pride.
Thus crown'd with worth, from heights of honour won,
Sees all his glories copied in his son,
Whose forward fame should every muse engage--
Whose youth boasts skill denied to others' age. 960
Men, manners, language, books of noblest kind,
Already are the conquest of his mind;
Whose loyalty before its date was prime,
Nor waited the dull course of rolling time:
The monster faction early he dismay'd,
And David's cause long since confess'd his aid.
Brave Abdael o'er the prophet's school was placed--
Abdael with all his father's virtue graced;
A hero who, while stars look'd wondering down,
Without one Hebrew's blood restored the crown. 970
That praise was his; what therefore did remain
For following chiefs, but boldly to maintain
That crown restored? and in this rank of fame,
Brave Abdael with the first a place must claim.
Proceed, illustrious, happy chief! proceed,
Foreseize the garlands for thy brow decreed,
While the inspired tribe attend with noblest strain
To register the glories thou shalt gain:
For sure the dew shall Gilboa's hills forsake,
And Jordan mix his stream with Sodom's lake; 980
Or seas retired, their secret stores disclose,
And to the sun their scaly brood expose,
Or swell'd above the cliffs their billows raise,
Before the muses leave their patron's praise.
Eliab our next labour does invite,
And hard the task to do Eliab right.
Long with the royal wanderer he roved,
And firm in all the turns of fortune proved.
Such ancient service and desert so large
Well claim'd the royal household for his charge. 990
His age with only one mild heiress bless'd,
In all the bloom of smiling nature dress'd,
And bless'd again to see his flower allied
To David's stock, and made young Othniel's bride.
The bright restorer of his father's youth,
Devoted to a son's and subject's truth;
Resolved to bear that prize of duty home,
So bravely sought, while sought by Absalom.
Ah, prince! the illustrious planet of thy birth,
And thy more powerful virtue, guard thy worth! 1000
That no Achitophel thy ruin boast;
Israel too much in one such wreck has lost.
Even envy must consent to Helon's worth,
Whose soul, though Egypt glories in his birth,
Could for our captive-ark its zeal retain.
And Pharaoh's altars in their pomp disdain:
To slight his gods was small; with nobler pride,
He all the allurements of his court defied;
Whom profit nor example could betray,
But Israel's friend, and true to David's sway. 1010
What acts of favour in his province fall
On merit he confers, and freely all.
Our list of nobles next let Amri grace,
Whose merits claim'd the Abethdin's high place;
Who, with a loyalty that did excel,
Brought all the endowments of Achitophel.
Sincere was Amri, and not only knew,
But Israel's sanctions into practice drew;
Our laws, that did a boundless ocean seem,
Were coasted all, and fathom'd all by him. 1020
No rabbin speaks like him their mystic sense,
So just, and with such charms of eloquence:
To whom the double blessing does belong,
With Moses' inspiration, Aaron's tongue.
Than Sheva none more loyal zeal have shown,
Wakeful as Judah's lion for the crown;
Who for that cause still combats in his age,
For which his youth with danger did engage.
In vain our factious priests the cant revive;
In vain seditious scribes with libel strive 1030
To inflame the crowd; while he with watchful eye
Observes, and shoots their treasons as they fly;
Their weekly frauds his keen replies detect;
He undeceives more fast than they infect:
So Moses, when the pest on legions prey'd,
Advanced his signal, and the plague was stay'd.
Once more, my fainting muse! thy pinions try,
And strength's exhausted store let love supply.
What tribute, Asaph, shall we render thee?
We'll crown thee with a wreath from thy own tree! 1040
Thy laurel grove no envy's flash can blast;
The song of Asaph shall for ever last.
With wonder late posterity shall dwell
On Absalom and false Achitophel:
Thy strains shall be our slumbering prophets' dream,
And when our Sion virgins sing their theme;
Our jubilees shall with thy verse be graced,
The song of Asaph shall for ever last.
How fierce his satire loosed! restrain'd, how tame!
How tender of the offending young man's fame! 1050
How well his worth, and brave adventures styled,
Just to his virtues, to his error mild!
No page of thine that fears the strictest view,
But teems with just reproof, or praise as due;
Not Eden could a fairer prospect yield,
All Paradise without one barren field:
Whose wit the censure of his foes has pass'd--
The song of Asaph shall for ever last.
What praise for such rich strains shall we allow?
What just rewards the grateful crown bestow? 1060
While bees in flowers rejoice, and flowers in dew,
While stars and fountains to their course are true;
While Judah's throne, and Sion's rock stand fast,
The song of Asaph and the fame shall last!
Still Hebron's honour'd, happy soil retains
Our royal hero's beauteous, dear remains;
Who now sails off with winds nor wishes slack,
To bring his sufferings' bright companion back.
But e'er such transport can our sense employ,
A bitter grief must poison half our joy; 1070
Nor can our coasts restored those blessings see
Without a bribe to envious destiny!
Cursed Sodom's doom for ever fix the tide
Where by inglorious chance the valiant died!
Give not insulting Askelon to know,
Nor let Gath's daughters triumph in our woe;
No sailor with the news swell Egypt's pride,
By what inglorious fate our valiant died.
Weep, Arnon! Jordan, weep thy fountains dry!
While Sion's rock dissolves for a supply. 1080
Calm were the elements, night's silence deep,
The waves scarce murmuring, and the winds asleep;
Yet fate for ruin takes so still an hour,
And treacherous sands the princely bark devour;
Then death unworthy seized a generous race,
To virtue's scandal, and the stars' disgrace!
Oh! had the indulgent powers vouchsafed to yield,
Instead of faithless shelves, a listed field;
A listed field of Heaven's and David's foes,
Fierce as the troops that did his youth oppose, 1090
Each life had on his slaughter'd heap retired,
Not tamely, and unconquering, thus expired:
But destiny is now their only foe,
And dying, even o'er that they triumph too;
With loud last breaths their master's 'scape applaud,
Of whom kind force could scarce the fates defraud;
Who for such followers lost, O matchless mind!
At his own safety now almost repined!
Say, royal Sir! by all your fame in arms,
Your praise in peace, and by Urania's charms, 1100
If all your sufferings past so nearly press'd,
Or pierced with half so painful grief your breast?
Thus some diviner muse her hero forms,
Not soothed with soft delights, but toss'd in storms;
Nor stretch'd on roses in the myrtle grove,
Nor crowns his days with mirth, his nights with love,
But far removed in thundering camps is found,
His slumbers short, his bed the herbless ground.
In tasks of danger always seen the first,
Feeds from the hedge, and slakes with ice his thirst, 1110
Long must his patience strive with fortune's rage,
And long-opposing gods themselves engage;
Must see his country flame, his friends destroy'd,
Before the promised empire be enjoy'd.
Such toil of fate must build a man of fame,
And such, to Israel's crown, the godlike David came.
What sudden beams dispel the clouds so fast,
Whose drenching rains laid all our vineyards waste?
The spring, so far behind her course delay'd,
On the instant is in all her bloom array'd; 1120
The winds breathe low, the element serene;
Yet mark what motion in the waves is seen!
Thronging and busy as Hyblaean swarms,
Or straggled soldiers summon'd to their arms,
See where the princely bark in loosest pride,
With all her guardian fleet, adorns the tide!
High on her deck the royal lovers stand,
Our crimes to pardon, e'er they touch'd our land.
Welcome to Israel and to David's breast!
Here all your toils, here all your sufferings rest. 1130
This year did Ziloah rule Jerusalem,
And boldly all sedition's surges stem,
Howe'er encumber'd with a viler pair
Than Ziph or Shimei to assist the chair;
Yet Ziloah's loyal labours so prevail'd,
That faction at the next election fail'd,
When even the common cry did justice found,
And merit by the multitude was crown'd:
With David then was Israel's peace restored,
Crowds mourn'd their error, and obey'd their lord. 1140
* * * * *
A KEY TO BOTH PARTS OF ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.
_Aldael_--General Monk, Duke of Albemarle.
_Abethdin_--The name given, through
this poem, to a Lord-Chancellor
_Absalom_--Duke of Monmouth, natural
son of King Charles II.
_Achitophel_--Anthony Ashley Cooper,
Earl of Shaftesbury.
_Adriel_--John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave.
_Agag_--Sir Edmundbury Godfrey.
_Amiel_--Mr Seymour, Speaker of the
House of Commons.
_Amri_--Sir Heneage Finch, Earl of
Winchelsea, and Lord Chancellor.
_Annabel_--Duchess of Monmouth.
_Arod_--Sir William Waller.
_Asaph_--A character drawn by Tate
for Dryden, in the second part
of this poem.
_Balaam_--Earl of Huntingdon.
_Barzillai_--Duke of Ormond.
_Bathsheba_--Duchess of Portsmouth.
_Ben Jochanan_--Rev. Samuel Johnson.
_Bezaliel_--Duke of Beaufort.
_Caleb_--Ford, Lord Grey of Werk.
_Corah_--Dr Titus Oates.
_David_--King Charles II.
_Doeg_--Elkanah Settle, the city poet.
_Eliab_--Sir Henry Bennet, Earl of
_Ethnic-Plot_--The Popish Plot.
_Gath_--The Land of Exile, more particularly
Brussels, where King
Charles II. long resided.
_Hebrew Priests_--The Church of
_Helon_--Earl of Feversham, a Frenchman
by birth, and nephew to
_Hushai_--Hyde, Earl of Rochester.
_Ishban_--Sir Robert Clayton, Alderman,
and one of the City Members.
_Issachar_--Thomas Thynne, Esq.,
who was shot in his coach.
_Jonas_--Sir William Jones, a great
_Jotham_--Saville, Marquis of Halifax.
_Judas_--Mr Ferguson, a canting
_Nadab_--Lord Howard of Escrick.
_Othniel_--Henry, Duke of Grafton,
natural son of King
Charles II. by the Duchess of Cleveland.
_Pharaoh_--King of France.
_Rabsheka_--Sir Thomas Player, one
of the City Members.
_Sagan of Jerusalem_--Dr Compton,
Bishop of London, youngest son
to the Earl of Northampton.
_Sheva_--Sir Roger Lestrange.
_Shimei_--Slingsby Bethel, Sheriff of
London in 1680.
_Solymaean Rout_--London Rebels.
_Zadoc_--Sancroft, Archbishop of
_Zaken_--A Member of the House of
_Ziloah_--Sir John Moor, Lord Mayor
_Zimri_--Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.
* * * * *
[Footnote 67: 'Annabel:' Lady Ann Scott, daughter of Francis, third Earl
[Footnote 68: 'Adam-wits:' comparing the discontented to Adam and his
[Footnote 69: 'Triple bond:' alliance between England, Sweden, and
Holland; broken by the second Dutch war through the influence of France
[Footnote 70: 'Vare:' _i.e._, wand, from Spanish _vara_.]
[Footnote 71: 'Him:' Dr Dolben, Bishop of Rochester.]
[Footnote 72: 'Ruler of the day:' Phaeton.]
[Footnote 73: The second part was written by Mr Nahum Tate, and is by no
means equal to the first, though Dryden corrected it throughout. The
poem is here printed complete.]
[Footnote 74: 'Next:' from this to the line, 'To talk like Doeg, and to
write like thee,' is Dryden's own.]
[Footnote 75: 'Who makes,' &c.: a line quoted from Settle.]
* * * * *
A SATIRE AGAINST SEDITION.
EPISTLE TO THE WHIGS.
For to whom can I dedicate this poem with so much justice as to you? It
is the representation of your own hero: it is the picture drawn at
length, which you admire and prize so much in little. None of your
ornaments are wanting; neither the landscape of your Tower, nor the
rising sun; nor the Anno Domini of your new sovereign's coronation. This
must needs be a grateful undertaking to your whole party; especially to
those who have not been so happy as to purchase the original. I hear the
graver has made a good market of it: all his kings are bought up
already; or the value of the remainder so enhanced, that many a poor
Polander, who would be glad to worship the image, is not able to go to
the cost of him, but must be content to see him here. I must confess I
am no great artist; but sign-post painting will serve the turn to
remember a friend by, especially when better is not to be had. Yet, for
your comfort, the lineaments are true; and though he sat not five times
to me, as he did to B., yet I have consulted history, as the Italian
painters do when they would draw a Nero or a Caligula: though they have
not seen the man, they can help their imagination by a statue of him,
and find out the colouring from Suetonius and Tacitus. Truth is, you
might have spared one side of your Medal: the head would be seen to more
advantage if it were placed on a spike of the Tower, a little nearer to
the sun, which would then break out to better purpose.
You tell us in your preface to the "No-Protestant Plot", that you
shall be forced hereafter to leave off your modesty: I suppose you mean
that little which is left you; for it was worn to rags when you put out
this Medal. Never was there practised such a piece of notorious
impudence in the face of an established government. I believe when he is
dead you will wear him in thumb rings, as the Turks did Scanderbeg; as
if there were virtue in his bones to preserve you against monarchy. Yet
all this while you pretend not only zeal for the public good, but a due
veneration for the person of the king. But all men who can see an inch
before them, may easily detect those gross fallacies. That it is
necessary for men in your circumstances to pretend both, is granted you;
for without them there could be no ground to raise a faction. But I
would ask you one civil question, what right has any man among you, or
any association of men (to come nearer to you), who, out of parliament,
cannot be considered in a public capacity, to meet as you daily do in
factious clubs, to vilify the government in your discourses, and to
libel it in all your writings? Who made you judges in Israel? Or how is
it consistent with your zeal for the public welfare, to promote
sedition? Does your definition of loyal, which is to serve the king
according to the laws, allow you the licence of traducing the executive
power with which you own he is invested? You complain that his majesty
has lost the love and confidence of his people; and by your very urging
it, you endeavour what in you lies to make him lose them. All good
subjects abhor the thought of arbitrary power, whether it be in one or
many: if you were the patriots you would seem, you would not at this
rate incense the multitude to assume it; for no sober man can fear it,
either from the king's disposition or his practice; or even, where you
would odiously lay it, from his ministers. Give us leave to enjoy the
government and the benefit of laws under which we were born, and which
we desire to transmit to our posterity. You are not the trustees of the
public liberty; and if you have not right to petition in a crowd, much
less have you to intermeddle in the management of affairs; or to arraign
what you do not like, which in effect is everything that is done by the
king and council. Can you imagine that any reasonable man will believe
you respect the person of his majesty, when it is apparent that your
seditious pamphlets are stuffed with particular reflections on him? If
you have the confidence to deny this, it is easy to be evinced from a
thousand passages, which I only forbear to quote, because I desire they
should die and be forgotten. I have perused many of your papers; and to
show you that I have, the third part of your "No-Protestant Plot" is
much of it stolen from your dead author's pamphlet, called the "Growth
of Popery;" as manifestly as Milton's "Defence of the English People" is
from Buchanan "De jure regni apud Scotos:" or your first Covenant and
new Association from the holy league of the French Guisards. Any one who
reads Davila, may trace your practices all along. There were the same
pretences for reformation and loyalty, the same aspersions of the king,
and the same grounds of a rebellion. I know not whether you will take
the historian's word, who says it was reported, that Poltrot, a
Huguenot, murdered Francis Duke of Guise, by the instigations of
Theodore Beza; or that it was a Huguenot minister, otherwise called a
Presbyterian (for our church abhors so devilish a tenet), who first writ
a treatise of the lawfulness of deposing and murdering kings of a
different persuasion in religion: but I am able to prove, from the
doctrine of Calvin, and principles of Buchanan, that they set the people
above the magistrate; which, if I mistake not, is your own fundamental,
and which carries your loyalty no further than your liking. When a vote
of the House of Commons goes on your side, you are as ready to observe
it as if it were passed into a law; but when you are pinched with any
former, and yet unrepealed act of parliament, you declare that in some
cases you will not be obliged by it. The passage is in the same third
part of the "No-Protestant Plot," and is too plain to be denied. The
late copy of your intended Association, you neither wholly justify nor
condemn; but as the Papists, when they are unopposed, fly out into all
the pageantries of worship, but in times of war, when they are hard
pressed by arguments, lie close intrenched behind the Council of Trent:
so now, when your affairs are in a low condition, you dare not pretend
that to be a legal combination, but whensoever you are afloat, I doubt
not but it will be maintained and justified to purpose. For, indeed,
there is nothing to defend it but the sword: it is the proper time to
say anything when men have all things in their power.
In the mean time, you would fain be nibbling at a parallel betwixt this
Association, and that in the time of Queen Elizabeth. But there is
this small difference betwixt them, that the ends of one are directly
opposite to the other: one with the queen's approbation and conjunction,
as head of it; the other, without either the consent or knowledge of the
king, against whose authority it is manifestly designed. Therefore you
do well to have recourse to your last evasion, that it was contrived by
your enemies, and shuffled into the papers that were seized; which yet
you see the nation is not so easy to believe as your own jury; but the
matter is not difficult to find twelve men in Newgate who would acquit a
I have only one favour to desire of you at parting, that when you think
of answering this poem, you would employ the same pens against it, who
have combated with so much success against Absalom and Achitophel: for
then you may assure yourselves of a clear victory, without the least
reply. Rail at me abundantly; and, not to break a custom, do it without
wit: by this method you will gain a considerable point, which is, wholly
to waive the answer of my arguments. Never own the bottom of your
principles, for fear they should be treason. Fall severely on the
miscarriages of government; for if scandal be not allowed, you are no
freeborn subjects. If God has not blessed you with the talent of
rhyming, make use of my poor stock, and welcome: let your verses run
upon my feet; and for the utmost refuge of notorious blockheads, reduced
to the last extremity of sense, turn my own lines upon me, and, in utter
despair of your own satire, make me satirize myself. Some of you have
been driven to this bay already; but, above all the rest, commend me to
the nonconformist parson, who writ the "Whip and Key." I am afraid it is
not read so much as the piece deserves, because the bookseller is every
week crying help at the end of his Gazette, to get it off. You see I am
charitable enough to do him a kindness, that it may be published as well
as printed; and that so much skill in Hebrew derivations may not lie for
waste-paper in the shop. Yet I half suspect he went no further for his
learning, than the index of Hebrew names and etymologies, which is
printed at the end of some English Bibles. If Achitophel signifies the
brother of a fool, the author of that poem will pass with his readers
for the next of kin. And perhaps it is the relation that makes the
kindness. Whatever the verses are, buy them up, I beseech you, out of
pity; for I hear the conventicle is shut up, and the brother of
Achitophel out of service.
Now, footmen, you know, have the generosity to make a purse for a member
of their society, who has had his livery pulled over his ears, and even
protestant socks are bought up among you, out of veneration to the name.
A dissenter in poetry from sense and English will make as good a
Protestant rhymer, as a dissenter from the Church of England a
Protestant parson. Besides, if you encourage a young beginner, who knows
but he may elevate his style a little above the vulgar epithets of
profane, and saucy jack, and atheistic scribbler, with which he treats
me, when the fit of enthusiasm is strong upon him: by which
well-mannered and charitable expressions I was certain of his sect
before I knew his name. What would you have more of a man? He has damned
me in your cause from Genesis to the Revelations; and has half the texts
of both the Testaments against me, if you will be so civil to yourselves
as to take him for your interpreter; and not to take them for Irish
witnesses. After all, perhaps you will tell me, that you retained him
only for the opening of your cause, and that your main lawyer is yet
behind. Now, if it so happen he meet with no more reply than his
predecessors, you may either conclude that I trust to the goodness of my
cause, or fear my adversary, or disdain him, or what you please; for the
short of it is, it is indifferent to your humble servant, whatever your
party says or thinks of him.
* * * * *
Of all our antic sights and pageantry,
Which English idiots run in crowds to see,
The Polish Medal bears the prize alone:
A monster, more the favourite of the town
Than either fairs or theatres have shown.
Never did art so well with nature strive;
Nor ever idol seem'd so much alive:
So like the man; so golden to the sight,
So base within, so counterfeit and light.
One side is fill'd with title and with face; 10
And, lest the king should want a regal place,
On the reverse, a tower the town surveys;
O'er which our mounting sun his beams displays.
The word, pronounced aloud by shrieval voice,
Laetamur, which, in Polish, is rejoice.
The day, month, year, to the great act are join'd:
And a new canting holiday design'd.
Five days he sate, for every cast and look--
Four more than God to finish Adam took.
But who can tell what essence angels are, 20
Or how long Heaven was making Lucifer?
Oh, could the style that copied every grace,
And plough'd such furrows for an eunuch face,
Could it have form'd his ever-changing will,
The various piece had tired the graver's skill!
A martial hero first, with early care,
Blown, like a pigmy by the winds, to war.
A beardless chief, a rebel, e'er a man:
So young his hatred to his prince began.
Next this (how wildly will ambition steer!) 30
A vermin wriggling in the usurper's ear.
Bartering his venal wit for sums of gold,
He cast himself into the saint-like mould;
Groan'd, sigh'd, and pray'd, while godliness was gain--
The loudest bagpipe of the squeaking train.
But, as 'tis hard to cheat a juggler's eyes,
His open lewdness he could ne'er disguise.
There split the saint: for hypocritic zeal
Allows no sins but those it can conceal.
Whoring to scandal gives too large a scope: 40
Saints must not trade; but they may interlope:
The ungodly principle was all the same;
But a gross cheat betrays his partner's game.
Besides, their pace was formal, grave, and slack;
His nimble wit outran the heavy pack.
Yet still he found his fortune at a stay:
Whole droves of blockheads choking up his way;
They took, but not rewarded, his advice;
Villain and wit exact a double price.
Power was his aim: but, thrown from that pretence, 50
The wretch turn'd loyal in his own defence;
And malice reconciled him to his prince.
Him, in the anguish of his soul he served;
Rewarded faster still than he deserved.
Behold him now exalted into trust;
His counsel's oft convenient, seldom just.
Even in the most sincere advice he gave,
He had a grudging still to be a knave.
The frauds he learn'd in his fanatic years
Made him uneasy in his lawful gears; 60
At best, as little honest as he could,
And, like white witches, mischievously good.
To his first bias longingly he leans;
And rather would be great by wicked means.
Thus framed for ill, he loosed our triple hold;
Advice unsafe, precipitous, and bold.
From hence those tears! that Ilium of our woe!
Who helps a powerful friend, forearms a foe.
What wonder if the waves prevail so far,
When he cut down the banks that made the bar? 70
Seas follow but their nature to invade;
But he by art our native strength betray'd.
So Samson to his foe his force confess'd,
And, to be shorn, lay slumbering on her breast.
But when this fatal counsel, found too late,
Exposed its author to the public hate;
When his just sovereign, by no impious way
Could be seduced to arbitrary sway;
Forsaken of that hope he shifts his sail,
Drives down the current with a popular gale; 80
And shows the fiend confess'd without a veil.
He preaches to the crowd that power is lent,
But not convey'd, to kingly government;
That claims successive bear no binding force,
That coronation oaths are things of course;
Maintains the multitude can never err,
And sets the people in the papal chair.
The reason's obvious: interest never lies;
The most have still their interest in their eyes;
The power is always theirs, and power is ever wise. 90
Almighty crowd, thou shortenest all dispute--
Power is thy essence; wit thy attribute!
Nor faith nor reason make thee at a stay,
Thou leap'st o'er all eternal truths, in thy Pindaric way!
Athens, no doubt, did righteously decide,
When Phocion and when Socrates were tried:
As righteously they did those dooms repent;
Still they were wise whatever way they went.
Crowds err not, though to both extremes they run;
To kill the father, and recall the son. 100
Some think the fools were most, as times went then,
But now the world's o'erstock'd with prudent men.
The common cry is even religion's test--
The Turk's is at Constantinople best;
Idols in India; Popery at Rome;
And our own worship only true at home:
And true, but for the time 'tis hard to know
How long we please it shall continue so.
This side to-day, and that to-morrow burns;
So all are God Almighties in their turns. 110
A tempting doctrine, plausible and new;
What fools our fathers were, if this be true!
Who, to destroy the seeds of civil war,
Inherent right in monarchs did declare:
And, that a lawful power might never cease,
Secured succession to secure our peace.
Thus property and sovereign sway, at last,
In equal balances were justly cast:
But this new Jehu spurs the hot-mouth'd horse--
Instructs the beast to know his native force; 120
To take the bit between his teeth, and fly
To the next headlong steep of anarchy.
Too happy England, if our good we knew,
Would we possess the freedom we pursue!
The lavish government can give no more:
Yet we repine, and plenty makes us poor.
God tried us once; our rebel-fathers fought,
He glutted them with all the power they sought:
Till, master'd by their own usurping brave,
The free-born subject sunk into a slave. 130
We loathe our manna, and we long for quails;
Ah, what is man when his own wish prevails!
How rash, how swift to plunge himself in ill!
Proud of his power, and boundless in his will!
That kings can do no wrong, we must believe;
None can they do, and must they all receive?
Help, Heaven! or sadly we shall see an hour,
When neither wrong nor right are in their power!
Already they have lost their best defence--
The benefit of laws which they dispense. 140
No justice to their righteous cause allow'd;
But baffled by an arbitrary crowd.
And medals graved their conquest to record,
The stamp and coin of their adopted lord.
The man who laugh'd but once, to see an ass
Mumbling make the cross-grain'd thistles pass,
Might laugh again to see a jury chaw
The prickles of unpalatable law.
The witnesses, that leech-like lived on blood,
Sucking for them was medicinally good; 150
But when they fasten'd on their fester'd sore,
Then justice and religion they forswore,
Their maiden oaths debauch'd into a whore.
Thus men are raised by factions, and decried;
And rogue and saint distinguish'd by their side.
They rack even Scripture to confess their cause,
And plead a call to preach in spite of laws.
But that's no news to the poor injured page;
It has been used as ill in every age,
And is constrain'd with patience all to take: 160
For what defence can Greek and Hebrew make?
Happy who can this talking trumpet seize;
They make it speak whatever sense they please:
'Twas framed at first our oracle to inquire;
But since our sects in prophecy grow higher,
The text inspires not them, but they the text inspire.
London, thou great emporium of our isle,
O thou too bounteous, thou too fruitful Nile!
How shall I praise or curse to thy desert?
Or separate thy sound from thy corrupted part? 170
I call thee Nile; the parallel will stand;
Thy tides of wealth o'erflow the fatten'd land;
Yet monsters from thy large increase we find,
Engender'd on the slime thou leav'st behind.
Sedition has not wholly seized on thee,
Thy nobler parts are from infection free.
Of Israel's tribes thou hast a numerous band,
But still the Canaanite is in the land.
Thy military chiefs are brave and true;
Nor are thy disenchanted burghers few. 180
The head is loyal which thy heart commands,
But what's a head with two such gouty hands?
The wise and wealthy love the surest way,
And are content to thrive and to obey.
But wisdom is to sloth too great a slave;
None are so busy as the fool and knave.
Those let me curse; what vengeance will they urge,
Whose ordures neither plague nor fire can purge?
Nor sharp experience can to duty bring,
Nor angry Heaven, nor a forgiving king! 190
In gospel-phrase, their chapmen they betray;
Their shops are dens, the buyer is their prey.
The knack of trades is living on the spoil;
They boast even when each other they beguile.
Customs to steal is such a trivial thing,
That 'tis their charter to defraud their king.
All hands unite of every jarring sect;
They cheat the country first, and then infect.
They for God's cause their monarchs dare dethrone,
And they'll be sure to make his cause their own. 200
Whether the plotting Jesuit laid the plan
Of murdering kings, or the French Puritan,
Our sacrilegious sects their guides outgo,
And kings and kingly power would murder too.
What means their traitorous combination less,
Too plain to evade, too shameful to confess!
But treason is not own'd when 'tis descried;
Successful crimes alone are justified.
The men, who no conspiracy would find,
Who doubts, but had it taken, they had join'd, 210
Join'd in a mutual covenant of defence;
At first without, at last against their prince?
If sovereign right by sovereign power they scan,
The same bold maxim holds in God and man:
God were not safe, his thunder could they shun,
He should be forced to crown another son.
Thus when the heir was from the vineyard thrown,
The rich possession was the murderer's own.
In vain to sophistry they have recourse:
By proving theirs no plot, they prove 'tis worse-- 220
Unmask'd rebellion, and audacious force:
Which, though not actual, yet all eyes may see
'Tis working in the immediate power to be.
For from pretended grievances they rise,
First to dislike, and after to despise;
Then, Cyclop-like, in human flesh to deal,
Chop up a minister at every meal:
Perhaps not wholly to melt down the king,
But clip his regal rights within the ring.
From thence to assume the power of peace and war, 230
And ease him, by degrees, of public care.
Yet, to consult his dignity and fame,
He should have leave to exercise the name,
And hold the cards, while commons play'd the game.
For what can power give more than food and drink,
To live at ease, and not be bound to think?
These are the cooler methods of their crime,
But their hot zealots think 'tis loss of time;
On utmost bounds of loyalty they stand,
And grin and whet like a Croatian band, 240
That waits impatient for the last command.
Thus outlaws open villainy maintain,
They steal not, but in squadrons scour the plain;
And if their power the passengers subdue,
The most have right, the wrong is in the few.
Such impious axioms foolishly they show,
For in some soils republics will not grow:
Our temperate isle will no extremes sustain,
Of popular sway or arbitrary reign;
But slides between them both into the best, 250
Secure in freedom, in a monarch blest:
And though the climate, vex'd with various winds,
Works through our yielding bodies on our minds.
The wholesome tempest purges what it breeds,
To recommend the calmness that succeeds.
But thou, the pander of the people's hearts,
O crooked soul, and serpentine in arts,
Whose blandishments a loyal land have whored,
And broke the bonds she plighted to her lord;
What curses on thy blasted name will fall! 260
Which age to age their legacy shall call;
For all must curse the woes that must descend on all.
Religion thou hast none: thy mercury
Has pass'd through every sect, or theirs through thee.
But what thou giv'st, that venom still remains,
And the pox'd nation feels thee in their brains.
What else inspires the tongues and swells the breasts
Of all thy bellowing renegado priests,
That preach up thee for God, dispense thy laws,
And with thy stum ferment their fainting cause? 270
Fresh fumes of madness raise; and toil and sweat
To make the formidable cripple great.
Yet, should thy crimes succeed, should lawless power
Compass those ends thy greedy hopes devour,
Thy canting friends thy mortal foes would be,
Thy God and theirs will never long agree;
For thine, if thou hast any, must be one
That lets the world and human kind alone:
A jolly god that passes hours too well
To promise heaven, or threaten us with hell; 280
That unconcern'd can at rebellion sit,
And wink at crimes he did himself commit.
A tyrant theirs; the heaven their priesthood paints
A conventicle of gloomy, sullen saints;
A heaven like Bedlam, slovenly and sad,
Foredoom'd for souls with false religion mad.
Without a vision poets can foreshow
What all but fools by common sense may know:
If true succession from our isle should fail,
And crowds profane with impious arms prevail, 290
Not thou, nor those thy factious arts engage,
Shall reap that harvest of rebellious rage,
With which thou flatterest thy decrepit age.
The swelling poison of the several sects,
Which, wanting vent, the nation's health infects,
Shall burst its bag; and, fighting out their way,
The various venoms on each other prey.
The presbyter, puff'd up with spiritual pride,
Shall on the necks of the lewd nobles ride:
His brethren damn, the civil power defy; 300
And parcel out republic prelacy.
But short shall be his reign: his rigid yoke
And tyrant power will puny sects provoke;
And frogs and toads, and all the tadpole train,
Will croak to heaven for help, from this devouring crane.
The cut-throat sword and clamorous gown shall jar,
In sharing their ill-gotten spoils of war:
Chiefs shall be grudged the part which they pretend;
Lords envy lords, and friends with every friend
About their impious merit shall contend. 310
The surly commons shall respect deny,
And justle peerage out with property.
Their general either shall his trust betray,
And force the crowd to arbitrary sway;
Or they, suspecting his ambitious aim,
In hate of kings shall cast anew the frame;
And thrust out Collatine that bore their name.
Thus inborn broils the factions would engage,
Or wars of exiled heirs, or foreign rage,
Till halting vengeance overtook our age: 320
And our wild labours, wearied into rest,
Reclined us on a rightful monarch's breast.
--"Pudet haec opprobria, vobis
Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli."
* * * * *
[Footnote 76: 'The Medal:' see 'Life.']
[Footnote 77: A pamphlet vindicating Lord Shaftesbury from being
concerned in any plotting designs against the King. Wood says, the
general report was, that it was written by the earl himself.]
[Footnote 78: When England, in the sixteenth century, was supposed in
danger from the designs of Spain, the principal people, with the queen
at their head, entered into an association for the defence of their
country, and of the Protestant religion, against Popery, invasion, and
[Footnote 79: 'Brother:' George Cooper, Esq., brother to the Earl of
Shaftesbury, was married to a daughter of Alderman Oldfield; and, being
settled in the city, became a great man among the Whigs and fanatics.]
[Footnote 80: 'Polish:' Shaftesbury was said to have entertained hopes
of the crown of Poland.]
[Footnote 81: 'White witches:' who wrought good ends by infernal means.]
[Footnote 82: 'Loosed our triple hold:' our breaking the alliance with
Holland and Sweden, was owing to the Earl of Shaftesbury's advice.]
[Footnote 83: 'The Man:' Crassus.]
[Footnote 84: 'The head,' &c.: alluding to the lord mayor and the two
sheriffs: the former, Sir John Moor, being a Tory; the latter, Shute and
* * * * *
RELIGIO LAICI; OR, A LAYMAN'S FAITH.
A Poem with so bold a title, and a name prefixed from which the handling
of so serious a subject would not be expected, may reasonably oblige the
author to say somewhat in defence, both of himself and of his
undertaking. In the first place, if it be objected to me, that, being a
layman, I ought not to have concerned myself with speculations which
belong to the profession of divinity; I could answer, that perhaps
laymen, with equal advantages of parts and knowledge, are not the most
incompetent judges of sacred things; but in the due sense of my own
weakness and want of learning, I plead not this: I pretend not to make
myself a judge of faith in others, but only to make a confession of my
own. I lay no unhallowed hand upon the ark, but wait on it, with the
reverence that becomes me, at a distance. In the next place, I will
ingenuously confess, that the helps I have used in this small treatise,
were many of them taken from the works of our own reverend divines of
the Church of England: so that the weapons with which I combat
irreligion, are already consecrated; though I suppose they may be taken
down as lawfully as the sword of Goliah was by David, when they are to
be employed for the common cause against the enemies of piety. I intend
not by this to entitle them to any of my errors, which yet I hope are
only those of charity to mankind; and such as my own charity has caused
me to commit, that of others may more easily excuse. Being naturally
inclined to scepticism in philosophy, I have no reason to impose my
opinions in a subject which is above it; but whatever they are, I submit
them with all reverence to my mother church, accounting them no farther
mine, than as they are authorised, or at least uncondemned by her. And,
indeed, to secure myself on this side, I have used the necessary
precaution of showing this paper, before it was published, to a
judicious and learned friend, a man indefatigably zealous in the service
of the church and state; and whose writings have highly deserved of
both. He was pleased to approve the body of the discourse, and I hope he
is more my friend than to do it out of complaisance: it is true he had
too good a taste to like it all; and amongst some other faults
recommended to my second view, what I have written perhaps too boldly on
St Athanasius, which he advised me wholly to omit. I am sensible enough
that I had done more prudently to have followed his opinion: but then I
could not have satisfied myself that I had done honestly not to have
written what was my own. It has always been my thought, that heathens
who never did, nor without miracle could, hear of the name of Christ,
were yet in a possibility of salvation. Neither will it enter easily
into my belief, that before the coming of our Saviour the whole world,
excepting only the Jewish nation, should lie under the inevitable
necessity of everlasting punishment, for want of that revelation, which
was confined to so small a spot of ground as that of Palestine. Among
the sons of Noah we read of one only who was accursed; and if a blessing
in the ripeness of time was reserved for Japhet (of whose progeny we
are), it seems unaccountable to me, why so many generations of the same
offspring, as preceded our Saviour in the flesh, should be all involved
in one common condemnation, and yet that their posterity should be
entitled to the hopes of salvation: as if a bill of exclusion had passed
only on the fathers, which debarred not the sons from their succession:
or that so many ages had been delivered over to hell, and so many
reserved for heaven; and that the devil had the first choice, and God
the next. Truly I am apt to think, that the revealed religion which was
taught by Noah to all his sons, might continue for some ages in the
whole posterity. That afterwards it was included wholly in the family of
Shem is manifest; but when the progenies of Ham and Japhet swarmed into
colonies, and those colonies were subdivided into many others, in
process of time their descendants lost by little and little the
primitive and purer rites of divine worship, retaining only the notion
of one Deity; to which succeeding generations added others: for men
took their degrees in those ages from conquerors to gods. Revelation
being thus eclipsed to almost all mankind, the light of nature, as the
next in dignity, was substituted; and that is it which St Paul concludes
to be the rule of the heathens, and by which they are hereafter to be
judged. If my supposition be true, then the consequence which I have
assumed in my poem may be also true; namely, that Deism, or the
principles of natural worship, are only the faint remnants or dying
flames of revealed religion in the posterity of Noah: and that our
modern philosophers--nay, and some of our philosophising divines--have
too much exalted the faculties of our souls, when they have maintained
that by their force mankind has been able to find out that there is one
supreme agent or intellectual Being which we call God: that praise and
prayer are his due worship; and the rest of those deducements, which I
am confident are the remote effects of revelation, and unattainable by
our discourse, I mean as simply considered, and without the benefit of
divine illumination. So that we have not lifted up ourselves to God, by
the weak pinions of our reason, but he has been pleased to descend to
us; and what Socrates said of him, what Plato writ, and the rest of the
heathen philosophers of several nations, is all no more than the
twilight of revelation, after the sun of it was set in the race of Noah.
That there is something above us, some principle of motion, our reason
can apprehend, though it cannot discover what it is by its own virtue.
And, indeed, it is very improbable, that we, who by the strength of our
faculties cannot enter into the knowledge of any Being, not so much as
of our own, should be able to find out by them, that supreme nature,
which we cannot otherwise define than by saying it is infinite; as if
infinite were definable, or infinity a subject for our narrow
understanding. They who would prove religion by reason, do but weaken
the cause which they endeavour to support: it is to take away the
pillars from our faith, and to prop it only with a twig; it is to design
a tower like that of Babel, which, if it were possible, as it is not, to
reach heaven, would come to nothing by the confusion of the workmen. For
every man is building a several way; impotently conceited of his own
model and his own materials: reason is always striving, and always at a
loss; and of necessity it must so come to pass, while it is exercised
about that which is not its own proper object. Let us be content at last
to know God by his own methods; at least, so much of him as he is
pleased to reveal to us in the sacred Scriptures: to apprehend them to
be the Word of God is all our reason has to do; for all beyond it is the
work of faith, which is the seal of Heaven impressed upon our human
And now for what concerns the holy bishop Athanasius; the preface of
whose creed seems inconsistent with my opinion; which is, that heathens
may possibly be saved. In the first place, I desire it may be considered
that it is the preface only, not the creed itself, which, till I am
better informed, is of too hard a digestion for my charity. It is not
that I am ignorant how many several texts of Scripture seemingly support
that cause; but neither am I ignorant how all those texts may receive a
kinder and more mollified interpretation. Every man who is read in
Church history, knows that belief was drawn up after a long contestation
with Arius, concerning the divinity of our blessed Saviour, and his
being one substance with the Father; and that thus compiled, it was sent
abroad among the Christian Churches, as a kind of test, which whosoever
took was looked upon as an orthodox believer. It is manifest from
hence, that the heathen part of the empire was not concerned in it; for
its business was not to distinguish betwixt Pagans and Christians, but
betwixt Heretics and true Believers. This, well considered, takes off
the heavy weight of censure, which I would willingly avoid, from so
venerable a man; for if this proportion, "whosoever will be saved," be
restrained only to those to whom it was intended, and for whom it was
composed, I mean the Christians; then the anathema reaches not the
heathens, who had never heard of Christ, and were nothing interested in
that dispute. After all, I am far from blaming even that prefatory
addition to the creed, and as far from cavilling at the continuation of
it in the Liturgy of the Church, where, on the days appointed, it is
publicly read: for I suppose there is the same reason for it now, in
opposition to the Socinians, as there was then against the Arians; the
one being a heresy, which seems to have been refined out of the other;
and with how much more plausibility of reason it combats our religion,
with so much more caution it ought to be avoided: therefore the prudence
of our Church is to be commended, which has interposed her authority for
the recommendation of this creed. Yet to such as are grounded in the
true belief, those explanatory creeds, the Nicene and this of
Athanasius, might perhaps be spared; for what is supernatural will
always be a mystery, in spite of exposition; and for my own part, the
plain Apostles' creed is most suitable to my weak understanding, as the
simplest diet is the most easy of digestion.
I have dwelt longer on this subject than I intended, and longer than
perhaps I ought; for having laid down, as my foundation, that the
Scripture is a rule; that in all things needful to salvation it is
clear, sufficient, and ordained by God Almighty for that purpose, I have
left myself no right to interpret obscure places, such as concern the
possibility of eternal happiness to heathens: because whatsoever is
obscure is concluded not necessary to be known.
But, by asserting the Scripture to be the canon of oar faith, I have
unavoidably created to myself two sorts of enemies: the Papists indeed,
more directly, because they have kept the Scriptures from us what they
could; and have reserved to themselves a right of interpreting what they
have delivered under the pretence of infallibility: and the Fanatics
more collaterally, because they have assumed what amounts to an
infallibility, in the private spirit; and have detorted those texts of
Scripture which are not necessary to salvation, to the damnable uses of
sedition, disturbance, and destruction of the civil government. To begin
with the Papists, and to speak freely, I think them the less dangerous,
at least in appearance to our present state; for not only the penal laws
are in force against them, and their number is contemptible, but also
their peers and commons are excluded from parliament, and consequently
those laws in no probability of being repealed. A general and
uninterrupted plot of their clergy, ever since the Reformation, I
suppose all Protestants believe; for it is not reasonable to think but
that so many of their orders, as were outed from their fat possessions,
would endeavour a re-entrance against those whom they account heretics.
As for the late design, Mr Coleman's letters, for aught I know, are the
best evidence; and what they discover, without wiredrawing their sense,
or malicious glosses, all men of reason conclude credible. If there be
anything more than this required of me, I must believe it as well as I
am able, in spite of the witnesses, and out of a decent conformity to
the votes of parliament; for I suppose the Fanatics will not allow the
private spirit in this case. Here the infallibility is at least in one
part of the government; and our understandings as well as our wills are
represented. But to return to the Roman Catholics, how can we be secure
from the practice of Jesuited Papists in that religion? For not two or
three of that order, as some of them would impose upon us, but almost
the whole body of them are of opinion, that their infallible master has
a right over kings, not only in spirituals but temporals. Not to name
Mariana, Bellarmine, Emanuel Sa, Molina, Santare, Simancha, and at
least twenty others of foreign countries; we can produce of our own
nation, Campian, and Doleman or Parsons; besides, many are named whom I
have not read, who all of them attest this doctrine, that the pope can
depose and give away the right of any sovereign prince, _si vel paulum
deflexerit_, if he shall never so little warp: but if he once comes to
be excommunicated, then the bond of obedience is taken off from
subjects; and they may, and ought to drive him, like another
Nebuchadnezzar, _ex hominum Christianorum dominatu_, from exercising
dominion over Christians; and to this they are bound by virtue of divine
precept, and by all the ties of conscience, under no less penalty than
damnation. If they answer me, as a learned priest has lately written,
that this doctrine of the Jesuits is not _de fide_; and that
consequently they are not obliged by it, they must pardon me, if I think
they have said nothing to the purpose; for it is a maxim in their
church, where points of faith are not decided, and that doctors are of
contrary opinions, they may follow which part they please; but more
safely the most received and most authorised. And their champion
Bellarmine has told the world, in his Apology, that the king of England
is a vassal to the pope, _ratione directi domini_, and that he holds in
villanage of his Roman landlord: which is no new claim put in for
England. Our chronicles are his authentic witnesses, that King John was
deposed by the same plea, and Philip Augustus admitted tenant. And which
makes the more for Bellarmine, the French king was again ejected when
our king submitted to the church, and the crown was received under the
sordid condition of a vassalage.
It is not sufficient for the more moderate and well-meaning Papists, of
which I doubt not there are many, to produce the evidences of their
loyalty to the late king, and to declare their innocency in this plot: I
will grant their behaviour in the first to have been as loyal and as
brave as they desire; and will be willing to hold them excused as to the
second, I mean when it comes to my turn, and after my betters; for it is
a madness to be sober alone, while the nation continues drank: but that
saying of their father Cres. is still running in my head, that they may
be dispensed with in their obedience to an heretic prince, while the
necessity of the times shall oblige them to it: for that, as another of
them tells us, is only the effect of Christian prudence; but when once
they shall get power to shake him off, an heretic is no lawful king, and
consequently to rise against him is no rebellion. I should be glad,
therefore, that they would follow the advice which was charitably given
them by a reverend prelate of our church; namely, that they would join
in a public act of disowning and detesting those Jesuitic principles;
and subscribe to all doctrines which deny the pope's authority of
deposing kings, and releasing subjects from their oath of allegiance: to
which I should think they might easily be induced, if it be true that
this present pope has condemned the doctrine of king-killing, a thesis
of the Jesuits maintained, amongst others, _ex cathedra_, as they call
it, or in open consistory.
Leaving them, therefore, in so fair a way, if they please themselves, of
satisfying all reasonable men of their sincerity and good meaning to the
government, I shall make bold to consider that other extreme of our
religion--I mean the Fanatics, or Schismatics, of the English Church.
Since the Bible has been translated into our tongue, they have used it
so, as if their business was not to be saved, but to be damned by its
contents. If we consider only them, better had it been for the English
nation that it had still remained in the original Greek and Hebrew, or
at least in the honest Latin of St Jerome, than that several texts in it
should have been prevaricated, to the destruction of that government
which put it into so ungrateful hands.
How many heresies the first translation of Tindal produced in few years,
let my Lord Herbert's history of Henry VIII. inform you; insomuch, that
for the gross errors in it, and the great mischiefs it occasioned, a
sentence passed on the first edition of the Bible, too shameful almost
to be repeated. After the short reign of Edward VI., who had continued
to carry on the Reformation on other principles than it was begun, every
one knows that not only the chief promoters of that work, but many
others, whose consciences would not dispense with Popery, were forced,
for fear of persecution, to change climates: from whence returning at
the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, many of them who had been in
France, and at Geneva, brought back the rigid opinions and imperious
discipline of Calvin, to graft upon our Reformation: which, though they
cunningly concealed at first, as well knowing how nauseously that drug
would go down in a lawful monarchy, which was prescribed for a
rebellious commonwealth, yet they always kept it in reserve; and were
never wanting to themselves either in court or parliament, when either
they had any prospect of a numerous party of fanatic members of the one,
or the encouragement of any favourite in the other, whose covetousness
was gaping at the patrimony of the Church. They who will consult the
works of our venerable Hooker, or the account of his life, or more
particularly the letter written to him on this subject by George
Cranmer, may see by what gradations they proceeded: from the dislike of
cap and surplice, the very next step was admonitions to the parliament
against the whole government ecclesiastical: then came out volumes in
English and Latin in defence of their tenets: and immediately practices
were set on foot to erect their discipline without authority. Those not
succeeding, satire and railing was the next: and Martin Mar-prelate, the
Marvel of those times, was the first Presbyterian scribbler, who
sanctified libels and scurrility to the use of the good old cause: which
was done, says my author, upon this account; that their serious
treatises having been fully answered and refuted, they might compass by
railing what they had lost by reasoning; and, when their cause was sunk
in court and parliament, they might at least hedge in a stake amongst
the rabble: for to their ignorance all things are wit which are abusive;
but if Church and State were made the theme, then the doctoral degree of
wit was to be taken at Billingsgate: even the most saint-like of the
party, though they durst not excuse this contempt and vilifying of the
government, yet were pleased, and grinned at it with a pious smile; and
called it a judgment of God against the hierarchy. Thus sectaries, we
may see, were born with teeth, foul-mouthed and scurrilous from their
infancy: and if spiritual pride, venom, violence, contempt of superiors,
and slander, had been the marks of orthodox belief, the presbytery and
the rest of our schismatics, which are their spawn, were always the most
visible church in the Christian world.
It is true, the government was too strong at that time for a rebellion;
but, to show what proficiency they had made in Calvin's school, even
then their mouths watered at it: for two of their gifted brotherhood,
Hacket and Coppinger, as the story tells us, got up into a
pease-cart and harangue the people, to dispose them to an insurrection,
and to establish their discipline by force: so that however it comes
about, that now they celebrate Queen Elizabeth's birth-night as that of
their saint and patroness; yet then they were for doing the work of the
Lord by arms against her; and in all probability they wanted but a
fanatic lord mayor and two sheriffs of their party to have compassed it.
Our venerable Hooker, after many admonitions which he had given them,
towards the end of his preface breaks out into this prophetic speech:--
"There is in every one of these considerations most just cause to fear,
lest our hastiness to embrace a thing of so perilous consequence
(meaning the Presbyterian discipline) should cause posterity to feel
those evils, which as yet are more easy for us to prevent, than they
would be for them to remedy."
How fatally this Cassandra has foretold, we know too well by sad
experience: the seeds were sown in the time of Queen Elizabeth, the
bloody harvest ripened in the reign of King Charles the Martyr; and,
because all the sheaves could not be carried off without shedding some
of the loose grains, another crop is too like to follow; nay, I fear it
is unavoidable, if the conventiclers be permitted still to scatter.
A man may be suffered to quote an adversary to our religion, when he
speaks truth; and it is the observation of Maimbourg, in his "History of
Calvinism," that wherever that discipline was planted and embraced,
rebellion, civil war, and misery attended it. And how, indeed, should it
happen otherwise? Reformation of Church and State has always been the
ground of our divisions in England. While we were Papists, our holy
father rid us, by pretending authority out of the Scriptures to depose
princes; when we shook off his authority, the sectaries furnished
themselves with the same weapons, and out of the same magazine, the
Bible; so that the Scriptures, which are in themselves the greatest
security of governors, as commanding express obedience to them, are now
turned to their destruction; and never since the Reformation has there
wanted a text of their interpreting to authorise a rebel. And it is to
be noted, by the way, that the doctrines of king-killing and deposing,
which have been taken up only by the worst party of the Papists, the
most frontless flatterers of the pope's authority, have been espoused,
defended, and are still maintained by the whole body of nonconformists
and republicans. It is but dubbing themselves the people of God, which
it is the interest of their preachers to tell them they are, and their
own interest to believe; and, after that, they cannot dip into the
Bible, but one text or another will turn up for their purpose: if they
are under persecution, as they call it, then that is a mark of their
election; if they flourish, then God works miracles for their
deliverance, and the saints are to possess the earth.
They may think themselves to be too roughly handled in this paper; but
I, who know best how far I could have gone on this subject, must be bold
to tell them they are spared: though at the same time I am not ignorant
that they interpret the mildness of a writer to them, as they do the
mercy of the government; in the one they think it fear, and conclude it
weakness in the other. The best way for them to confute me is, as I
before advised the Papists, to disclaim their principles and renounce
their practices. We shall all be glad to think them true Englishmen when
they obey the king, and true Protestants when they conform to the church
It remains that I acquaint the reader, that these verses were written
for an ingenious young gentleman, my friend, upon his translation of
"The Critical History of the Old Testament," composed by the learned
Father Simon: the verses, therefore, are addressed to the translator of
that work, and the style of them is, what it ought to be, epistolary.
If any one be so lamentable a critic as to require the smoothness, the
numbers, and the turn of heroic poetry in this poem, I must tell him,
that if he has not read Horace, I have studied him, and hope the style
of his epistles is not ill imitated here. The expressions of a poem
designed purely for instruction, ought to be plain and natural, and yet
majestic: for here the poet is presumed to be a kind of lawgiver, and
those three qualities which I have named, are proper to the legislative
style. The florid, elevated, and figurative way is for the passions; for
love and hatred, fear and anger, are begotten in the soul, by showing
their objects out of their true proportion, either greater than the life
or less: but instruction is to be given by showing them what they
naturally are. A man is to be cheated into passion, but to be reasoned
* * * * *
Dim as the borrow'd beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, wandering travellers,
Is reason to the soul: and as on high,
Those rolling fires discover but the sky,
Not light us here; so reason's glimmering ray
Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way,
But guide us upward to a better day.
And as those nightly tapers disappear
When day's bright lord ascends our hemisphere;
So pale grows reason at religion's sight; 10
So dies, and so dissolves in supernatural light.
Some few, whose lamp shone brighter, have been led
From cause to cause, to nature's secret head;
And found that one first principle must be:
But what, or who, that UNIVERSAL HE:
Whether some soul encompassing this ball,
Unmade, unmoved; yet making, moving all;
Or various atoms' interfering dance
Leap'd into form, the noble work of chance;
Or this Great All was from eternity; 20
Not even the Stagyrite himself could see;
And Epicurus guess'd as well as he:
As blindly groped they for a future state;
As rashly judged of providence and fate:
But least of all could their endeavours find
What most concern'd the good of human kind:
For happiness was never to be found,
But vanish'd from them like enchanted ground.
One thought Content the good to be enjoy'd--
This every little accident destroy'd: 30
The wiser madmen did for Virtue toil--
A thorny, or at best a barren soil:
In Pleasure some their glutton souls would steep;
But found their line too short, the well too deep;
And leaky vessels which no bliss could keep.
Thus anxious thoughts in endless circles roll,
Without a centre where to fix the soul:
In this wild maze their vain endeavours end:
How can the less the greater comprehend?
Or finite reason reach Infinity? 40
For what could fathom God were more than He.
The Deist thinks he stands on firmer ground;
Cries [Greek: eureka], the mighty secret's found:
God is that spring of good; supreme and best;
We made to serve, and in that service blest;
If so, some rules of worship must be given,
Distributed alike to all by Heaven:
Else God were partial, and to some denied
The means his justice should for all provide.
This general worship is to praise and pray: 50
One part to borrow blessings, one to pay:
And when frail nature slides into offence,
The sacrifice for crimes is penitence.
Yet since the effects of Providence, we find,
Are variously dispensed to human kind;
That vice triumphs, and virtue suffers here--
A brand that sovereign justice cannot bear--
Our reason prompts us to a future state:
The last appeal from fortune and from fate;
Where God's all-righteous ways will be declared-- 60
The bad meet punishment, the good reward.
Thus man by his own strength to heaven would soar,
And would not be obliged to God for more.
Vain, wretched creature, how art thou misled,
To think thy wit these God-like notions bred!
These truths are not the product of thy mind,
But dropp'd from heaven, and of a nobler kind.
Reveal'd religion first inform'd thy sight,
And reason saw not, till faith sprung the light.
Hence all thy natural worship takes the source: 70
'Tis revelation what thou think'st discourse.
Else how com'st thou to see these truths so clear,
Which so obscure to heathens did appear?
Not Plato these, nor Aristotle found:
Nor he whose wisdom oracles renown'd.
Hast thou a wit so deep, or so sublime,
Or canst thou lower dive, or higher climb?
Canst thou by reason more of Godhead know
Than Plutarch, Seneca, or Cicero?
Those giant wits, in happier ages born, 80
When arms and arts did Greece and Rome adorn,
Knew no such system: no such piles could raise
Of natural worship, built on prayer and praise,
To one sole God.
Nor did remorse to expiate sin prescribe,
But slew their fellow-creatures for a bribe:
The guiltless victim groan'd for their offence;
And cruelty and blood was penitence.
If sheep and oxen could atone for men,
Ah! at how cheap a rate the rich might sin! 90
And great oppressors might Heaven's wrath beguile,
By offering His own creatures for a spoil!
Darest thou, poor worm, offend Infinity?
And must the terms of peace be given by thee?
Then thou art Justice in the last appeal;
Thy easy God instructs thee to rebel:
And, like a king remote, and weak, must take
What satisfaction thou art pleased to make.
But if there be a Power too just and strong
To wink at crimes, and bear unpunish'd wrong, 100
Look humbly upward, see His will disclose
The forfeit first, and then the fine impose:
A mulct thy poverty could never pay,
Had not Eternal Wisdom found the way:
And with celestial wealth supplied thy store:
His justice makes the fine, His mercy quits the score.
See God descending in thy human frame;
The Offended suffering in the offender's name:
All thy misdeeds to Him imputed see,
And all His righteousness devolved on thee. 110
For, granting we have sinn'd, and that the offence
Of man is made against Omnipotence,
Some price that bears proportion must be paid,
And infinite with infinite be weigh'd.
See then the Deist lost: remorse for vice
Not paid; or paid, inadequate in price:
What further means can reason now direct,
Or what relief from human wit expect?
That shows us sick; and sadly are we sure
Still to be sick, till Heaven reveal the cure: 120
If, then, Heaven's will must needs be understood
(Which must, if we want cure, and Heaven be good),
Let all records of will reveal'd be shown;
With Scripure all in equal balance thrown,
And our one Sacred Book will be that one.
Proof needs not here, for whether we compare
That impious, idle, superstitious ware
Of rites, lustrations, offerings, which before,
In various ages, various countries bore,
With Christian faith and virtues, we shall find 130
None answering the great ends of human kind,
But this one rule of life, that shows us best
How God may be appeased, and mortals blest.
Whether from length of time its worth we draw,
The word is scarce more ancient than the law:
Heaven's early care prescribed for every age;
First, in the soul, and after, in the page.
Or, whether more abstractedly we look,
Or on the writers, or the written book,
Whence, but from Heaven, could men unskill'd in arts, 140
In several ages born, in several parts,
Weave such agreeing truths? or how, or why
Should all conspire to cheat us with a lie?
Unask'd their pains, ungrateful their advice,
Starving their gain, and martyrdom their price.
If on the Book itself we cast our view,
Concurrent heathens prove the story true:
The doctrine, miracles; which must convince,
For Heaven in them appeals to human sense:
And though they prove not, they confirm the cause, 150
When what is taught agrees with Nature's laws.
Then for the style, majestic and divine,
It speaks no less than God in every line:
Commanding words; whose force is still the same
As the first fiat that produced our frame.
All faiths beside, or did by arms ascend;
Or, sense indulged, has made mankind their friend:
This only doctrine does our lusts oppose--
Unfed by Nature's soil, in which it grows;
Cross to our interests, curbing sense, and sin; 160
Oppress'd without, and undermined within,
It thrives through pain; its own tormentors tires;
And with a stubborn patience still aspires.
To what can reason such effects assign,
Transcending nature, but to laws divine?
Which in that sacred volume are contain'd;
Sufficient, clear, and for that use ordain'd.
But stay: the Deist here will urge anew,
No supernatural worship can be true:
Because a general law is that alone 170
Which must to all, and every where be known:
A style so large as not this Book can claim,
Nor aught that bears Reveal'd Religion's name.
'Tis said the sound of a Messiah's birth
Is gone through all the habitable earth:
But still that text must be confined alone
To what was then inhabited, and known:
And what provision could from thence accrue
To Indian souls, and worlds discover'd new?
In other parts it helps, that ages past, 180
The Scriptures there were known, and were embraced,
Till sin spread once again the shades of night:
What's that to these who never saw the light?
Of all objections this indeed is chief
To startle reason, stagger frail belief:
We grant, 'tis true, that Heaven from human sense
Has hid the secret paths of Providence:
But boundless wisdom, boundless mercy may
Find even for those bewilder'd souls a way.
If from His nature foes may pity claim, 190
Much more may strangers who ne'er heard His name.
And though no name be for salvation known,
But that of his Eternal Son alone;
Who knows how far transcending goodness can
Extend the merits of that Son to man?
Who knows what reasons may His mercy lead;
Or ignorance invincible may plead?
Not only charity bids hope the best,
But more the great apostle has express'd:
That if the Gentiles, whom no law inspired, 200
By nature did what was by law required;
They, who the written rule had never known,
Were to themselves both rule and law alone:
To nature's plain indictment they shall plead;
And by their conscience be condemn'd or freed.
Most righteous doom! because a rule reveal'd
Is none to those from whom it was conceal'd.
Then those who follow'd reason's dictates right,
Lived up, and lifted high their natural light;
With Socrates may see their Maker's face, 210
While thousand rubric-martyrs want a place.
Nor does it balk my charity to find
The Egyptian bishop of another mind:
For though his creed eternal truth contains,
'Tis hard for man to doom to endless pains
All who believed not all his zeal required;
Unless he first could prove he was inspired.
Then let us either think he meant to say
This faith, where publish'd, was the only way;
Or else conclude that, Arius to confute, 220
The good old man, too eager in dispute,
Flew high; and as his Christian fury rose,
Damn'd all for heretics who durst oppose.
Thus far my charity this path has tried,
(A much unskilful, but well meaning guide:)
Yet what they are, even these crude thoughts were bred
By reading that which better thou hast read,
Thy matchless author's work: which thou, my friend,
By well translating better dost commend;
Those youthful hours which, of thy equals most 230
In toys have squander'd, or in vice have lost,
Those hours hast thou to nobler use employ'd;
And the severe delights of truth enjoy'd.
Witness this weighty book, in which appears
The crabbed toil of many thoughtful years,
Spent by thy author, in the sifting care
Of Rabbins' old sophisticated ware
From gold divine; which he who well can sort
May afterwards make algebra a sport:
A treasure, which if country curates buy, 240
They Junius and Tremellius may defy;
Save pains in various readings, and translations;
And without Hebrew make most learn'd quotations.
A work so full with various learning fraught,
So nicely ponder'd, yet so strongly wrought,
As nature's height and art's last hand required:
As much as man could compass, uninspired.
Where we may see what errors have been made
Both in the copiers' and translators' trade;
How Jewish, Popish interests have prevail'd, 250
And where infallibility has fail'd.
For some, who have his secret meaning guess'd,
Have found our author not too much a priest:
For fashion-sake he seems to have recourse
To Pope, and Councils, and Tradition's force:
But he that old traditions could subdue,
Could not but find the weakness of the new:
If Scripture, though derived from heavenly birth,
Has been but carelessly preserved on earth;
If God's own people, who of God before 260
Knew what we know, and had been promised more,
In fuller terms, of Heaven's assisting care,
And who did neither time nor study spare,
To keep this Book untainted, unperplex'd,
Let in gross errors to corrupt the text,
Omitted paragraphs, embroil'd the sense,
With vain traditions stopp'd the gaping fence,
Which every common hand pull'd up with ease:
What safety from such brushwood-helps as these!
If written words from time are not secured, 270
How can we think have oral sounds endured?
Which thus transmitted, if one mouth has fail'd,
Immortal lies on ages are entail'd:
And that some such have been, is proved too plain,
If we consider interest, church, and gain.
O but, says one, tradition set aside,
Where can we hope for an unerring guide?
For since the original Scripture has been lost,
All copies disagreeing, maim'd the most,
Or Christian faith can have no certain ground, 280
Or truth in Church Tradition must be found.
Such an omniscient Church we wish indeed:
'Twere worth both Testaments, cast in the Creed:
But if this mother be a guide so sure,
As can all doubts resolve, all truth secure,
Then her infallibility, as well
Where copies are corrupt or lame, can tell;
Restore lost canon with as little pains,
As truly explicate what still remains:
Which yet no Council dare pretend to do; 290
Unless, like Esdras, they could write it new:
Strange confidence still to interpret true,
Yet not be sure that all they have explain'd
Is in the blest original contain'd!
More safe, and much more modest 'tis to say,
God would not leave mankind without a way:
And that the Scriptures, though not every where
Free from corruption, or entire, or clear,
Are uncorrupt, sufficient, clear, entire,
In all things which our needful faith require. 300
If others in the same glass better see,
'Tis for themselves they look, but not for me:
For my salvation must its doom receive,
Not from what others, but what I believe.
Must all tradition then be set aside?
This to affirm were ignorance or pride.
Are there not many points, some needful sure
To saving faith, that Scripture leaves obscure?
Which every sect will wrest a several way,
For what one sect interprets, all sects may. 310
We hold, and say we prove from Scripture plain,
That Christ is God; the bold Socinian
From the same Scripture urges he's but man.
Now, what appeal can end the important suit?
Both parts talk loudly, but the rule is mute.
Shall I speak plain, and in a nation free
Assume an honest layman's liberty?
I think, according to my little skill,
To my own Mother Church submitting still,
That many have been saved, and many may, 320
Who never heard this question brought in play.
Th' unletter'd Christian, who believes in gross,
Plods on to heaven, and ne'er is at a loss;
For the strait gate would be made straiter yet,
Were none admitted there but men of wit.