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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;
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, unmov'd; 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;
Not ev'n the Stagirite himself could see;
And Epicurus guess'd as well as he;
As blindly grop'd they for a future state;
As rashly judg'd 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:
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 ευρεκα, 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 deny'd
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 dispens'd 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 declar'd;
The bad meet punishment, the good reward. [soar :
Thus man by his own strength to Heaven would
And would not be oblig'd 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 dropt 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:
'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,
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 pleas'd 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 supply'd 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 devolv'd 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 appeas'd, 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 prescrib'd 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
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 hunan 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 produc'd our frame.
All faiths beside, or did by arms ascend;
Or sense indulg'd 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 undermin'd within,
It thrives through pain; its own tormentors tires;
And with a stubborn patience still aspires.