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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?
For what could fathom God were more than He.
The Deist thinks he stands on firmer ground;
Cries Eureka, the mighty secret's found:
God is that spring of good; supreme and best;
We made to serve, and in that service bless'd.
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;
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;
The bad meet punishment, the good reward.
Thus man by his own strength to heaven would And would not be obliged to God for more. [soar, Vain, wretched creature, how art thou misled To think thy wit these godlike 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 to light.
Hence all thy natural worship takes the source :
"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.
Has 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,
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!
And great oppressors might Heaven's wrath beguile
By offering his own creatures for a spoil !
Dar'st 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,
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,
Th' offended suffering in th' offender's name:
All thy misdeeds to him imputed see,
And all his righteousness devolved on thee.
For, granting we have sinn'd, and that th' 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 farther 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;
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 Scripture 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 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 bless'd. 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, 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,
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;
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?
If Heaven the grateful liberty would give,
That I might choose my method how to live;
And all those hours propitious Fate should lend,
In blissful ease and satisfaction spend :
Near some fair town I'd have a private seat,
Built uniform, not little nor too great;
Better, if on a rising ground it stood,
On this side fields, on that a neighbouring wood.
It should within no other things contain
But what are useful, necessary, plain:
Methinks 'tis nauseous, and I'd near endure
The needless pomp of gaudy furniture.
A little garden, grateful to the eye,
And a cool rivulet run murmuring by;
On whose delicious banks a stately row
Of shady limes or sycamores should grow.
At th' end of which a silent study placed,
Should be with all the noblest authors graced :
Horace and Virgil, in whose mighty lines
Immortal wit and solid learning shines ;
Sharp Juvenal, and amorous Ovid too,
Who all the turns of love's soft passion knew :
He that with judgment reads his charming lines,
In which strong art with stronger nature joins,
Must grant his fancy does the best excel;
His thoughts so tender, and express'd so well.
With all those moderns, men of steady sense,
Esteem'd for learning and for eloquence.
In some of these, as fancy should advise,
I'd always take my morning exercise :
For sure no minutes bring us more content,
Than those in pleasing, useful studies spent.
I'd have a clear and competent estate, That I might live genteelly, but not great :