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His still refuted quirks he still repeats;
New rais'd objections with new quibbles meets;
Till, sinking in the quicksand he defends,
He dies disputing, and the contest ends—
But not the mischiefs; they, still left behind
Like thistle-seeds, are sown by ev'ry wind.
Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill;
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 errours 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,
Whose hand is feeble, or his aim untrue.
For though, ere yet the shaft is on the wing,
Or when it first forsakes th' elastic string,
It err but little from th' 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:
He that sips often, at last drinks it up.
Habits are soon assum'd; 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 pow'r Almighty save you not.
There hard'ning by degrees, till double steel'd,
Take leave of nature's God, and God reveal'd;
Then laugh at all you trembled at before;
And, joining the free-thinker's brutal roar,
Swallow the two grand nostrums they dispense—
That Scripture lies, and blasphemy is sense.
If clemency revolted by abuse
Be damnable, then dumn'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 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-ton'd chord the sum of all.
Hear the just law—the judgment of the skies I
I 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 wand'rer his mistake discern,
Judge his own ways, and sigh for a return,
IBewilder'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 pow'r to save.
There no delusive hope invites despair;
No mock'ry meets you, no deception there.
The spells and charms, that blinded you before.
All vanish there, and fascinate uo more.
I am no preacher, let this hint suffice— The cross once seen is death to ev'ry vice: Else he that hung there suffer'd all his pain, Bled, groan'd, and agoniz'd, and died in vain.
Pensantur trutirJ. Hot. Lib. ii. Epist. 1.
Man, on the dubious waves of errour toss'd,
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 canvass, ev'ry sinew plies;
Pants for't, aims at it, enters it, and dies I
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.
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;