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Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill, 556 Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will, And, with a clear and shining lamp supplied, First put it out, then take it for a guide. Halting on crutches of unequal size, One leg by truth supported, one by lies, They sidle to the goal with awkward pace, Secure of nothing—but to lose the race. Faults in the life breed errors in the brain, And these, reciprocally, those again. The mind and conduct mutually imprint And stamp their image in each other's mint: Each, sire and dam, of an infernal race, Begetting and conceiving all that's base. None sends his arrow to the mark in view, 570 Whose hand is feeble, or his aim untrue. For though ere yet the shaft is on the wing, Or when it first forsakes the elastic string, It err but little from the intended line, It falls at last far wide of his design : So he who seeks a mansion in the sky, Must watch his purpose with a steadfast eye; That prize belongs to none but the sincere, The least obliquity is fatal here. With caution taste the sweet Circean cup, 580 He that sips often, at last drinks it up. Habits are soon assumed, but when we strive To strip them off, 'tis being flay’d alive. Call'd to the temple of impure delight, He that abstains, and he alone, does right. If a wish wander that way, call it home ; He cannot long be safe whose wishes roam. But if you pass the threshold, you are caught; Die then, if power Almighty save you not
There hardening by degrees, till double steel'd, 590
Take leave of nature's God, and God reveal’d ;
Then laugh at all you trembled at before
And, joining the freethinkers' brutal roar,
Swallow the two grand nostrums they dispense—
That Scripture lies, and blasphemy is sense:
If clemency revolted by abuse
Be damnable, then damn'd without excuse.
Some dream that they can silence, when they will,
The storm of passion, and say, Peace, be still;
But Thus far and no farther, when address'd 600
To the wild wave, or wilder human breast,
Implies authority that never can,
That never ought to be the lot of man.
But, Muse, forbear; long flights forebode a fall ;
Strike on the deep-toned chord the sum of all.
Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies;
And he that will be cheated to the last,
Delusions, strong as hell, shall bind him fast.
But if the wanderer his mistake discern, 610
Judge his own ways, and sigh for a return,
Bewilder'd once, must he bewail his loss
For ever and for ever ? No-the Cross |
There, and there only (though the deist rave,
And atheist, if earth bear so base a slave);
There, and there only, is the power to save.
There no delusive hope invites despair,
No mockery meets you, no deception there.
The spells and charms that blinded you before,
All vanish there, and fascinate no more. 620
I am no preacher, let this hint suffice,—
The Cross, once seen, is death to every vice:
Else He that hung there, suffer'd all his pain,
Bled, groan'd, and agonized, and died in vain.
Pensantur trutina.-HoR. Lib. ii. Ep. 1.
Error leads to destruction, 1–Grace conducts to righteousness and peace, 17– Its offers despised, 32—The self-complacency of the Pharisee, 44–Humility of the true Christian, 66—Works of righteousness of the hermit and Brahmin alike condemned, 79—A sanctimonious prude, 131—Cheerfulness and freedom of true piety, 171—Willing obedience the test of love, 197— The gospel the sure refuge of the sinner, 238—False grounds of peace, 283 —Infidelity; Woltaire, 301—Simplicity of faith, 317—Not many rich called, 337–0ffers of the gospel free to all, 345–Poverty the best soil for the gospel seed, 361—Sinfulness and weakness of man, 383—His pride and self-esteem, 403—Unbelief terminating in suicide, 429–Scripture the cure of woe, 451—Pride the greatest opponent of the truth, 463—The atonement not for the self-righteous, 503—Plea for the conscientious heathen, 515–Terrors of the law, 547—The last judgment, 563—Humility crowned, faith triumphant, 571.
MAN, on the dubious waves of error tost,
His ship half founder'd and his compass lost,
Sees, far as human optics may command,
A sleeping fog, and fancies it dry land;
Spreads all his canvas, every sinew plies;
Pants for’t, aims at it, enters it, and dies 1
Then farewell all self-satisfying schemes,
His well-built systems, philosophic dreams;
Deceitful views of future bliss, farewell !
He reads his sentence at the flames of Hell. 10
Hard lot of man—to toil for the reward
Of virtue, and yet lose it ! Wherefore hard —
He that would win the race, must guide his horse
Obedient to the customs of the course ;
Else, though unequall'd to the goal he flies, 15
A meaner than himself shall gain the prize.
Grace leads the right way; if you choose the wrong,
Take it and perish, but restrain your tongue;
Charge not, with light sufficient and left free,
Your wilful suicide on God's decree. 20
Oh how unlike the complex works of man,
Heaven's easy, artless, unencumber'd plan
No meretricious graces to beguile,
No clustering ornaments to clog the pile;
From ostentation as from weakness free,
It stands like the cerulean arch we see,
Majestic in its own simplicity.
Inscribed above the portal, from afar
Conspicuous as the brightness of a star,
Legible only by the light they give, 30
Stand the soul-quickening words—BELIEVE, AND LIVE.
Too many, shock'd at what should charm them most,
Despise the plain direction, and are lost.
Heaven on such terms! (they cry with proud disdain)—
Incredible, impossible, and vain —
Rebel because ’tis easy to obey,
And scorn, for its own sake, the gracious way.
These are the sober, in whose cooler brains
Some thought of immortality remains;
The rest too busy, or too gay, to wait 40
On the sad theme, their everlasting state,
Sport for a day, and perish in a night,
The foam upon the waters not so light.
Who judged the Pharisee ? What odious cause
Exposed him to the vengeance of the laws :
Had he seduced a virgin, wrong’d a friend,
Or stabb’d a man to serve some private end ?
Was blasphemy his sin ( or did he stray
From the strict duties of the sacred day !
Sit long and late at the carousing board 50
(Such were the sins with which he charged his Lord.)
No—the man's morals were exact, what then 4
'Twas his ambition to be seen of men ;
His virtues were his pride; and that one vice
Made all his virtues gewgaws of no price;
He wore them as fine trappings for a show,
A praying, synagogue-frequenting beau.
The self-applauding bird, the peacock, see—
Mark what a sumptuous Pharisee is he
Meridian sunbeams tempt him to unfold 60
His radiant glories, azure, green, and gold ;
He treads as if, some solemn music near,
His measured step were govern'd by his ear,
And seems to say, Ye meaner fowl, give place,
I am all splendour, dignity, and grace
Not so the pheasant on his charms presumes,
Though he too has a glory in his plumes.
He, Christian-like, retreats with modest mien,
To the close copse or far sequester'd green,
And shines without desiring to be seen. 70
The plea of works, as arrogant and vain,
Heaven turns from with abhorrence and disdain:
Not more affronted by avow’d neglect,
Than by the mere dissembler's feign'd respect.
What is all righteousness that men devise,
What, but a sordid bargain for the skies :
But Christ as soon would abdicate his own,
As stoop from heaven to sell the proud a throne.
His dwelling a recess in some rude rock ;
Book, beads, and maple-dish his meagre stock; 80
In shirt of hair and weeds of canvas dress'd,
Girt with a bell-rope that the Pope has bless'd ;
Adust with stripes told out for every crime,
And sore tormented long before his time;