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A messenger of grace to guilty men.
Behold the picture !—Is it like? Like whom?
The things that mount the rostrum with a skip,
And then skip down again : pronounce a text,
Cry, hem ; and reading what they never wrote,—
Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work,
And with a well-bred whisper close the scene.
In man or woman, but far most in man,
And most of all in man that ministers
And serves the altar, in my soul I loathe
All affectation. 'Tis my perfect scorn;
Object of my implacable disgust.
What!—will a man play tricks, will he indulge
A silly fond conceit of his fair form
And just proportion, fashionable mien
And pretty face, in presence of his God?
Or will he seek to dazzle me with tropes,
As with the diamond on his lily hand,
And play his brilhant parts before my eyes
When I am hungry for the bread of life?
He mocks his Maker, prostitutes and shames
His noble office, and instead of truth
Displaying his own beauty, starves his flock.
Therefore avaunt! all attitude and stare
And start theatric, practised at the glass.
I seek divine simplicity in him
Who handles things divine; and all beside,
Though learned with labour, and though much admired
By curious eyes and judgments ill-informed,
To me is odious as the nasal twang
Heard at conventicle, where worthy men
Misled by custom, strain celestial themes
Through the pressed nostril, spectacle-bestrid.
Some, decent in dem eanour while they preach,
That task performed, relapse into themselves,
And havmg spoken wisely, at the close
Grow wanton, and give proof to every eye,
Whoe'er was edified, themselves were not.
Forth comes the pocket mirror. First we stroke
An eyebrow; next, compose a straggling lock;
Then with an air, most gracefully performed,
Fall back into our seat; extend an arm
And lay it at its ease with gentle care,
With handkerchief in hand, depending low.
The better hand more busy, gives the nose
Its bergamot, or aids the indebted eye
With opera glass to watch the moving scene,
And recognise the slow-retiring fair.
Now this is fulsome, and offends me more
Than in a churchman slovenly neglect
And rustic coarseness would. An heavenly lumd
May be indifferent to her house of clay,
And slight the hovel as beneath her care;
But how a body so fantastic, trim,
And quaint in its deportment and attire,
Can lodge an heavenly mind,—demands a doubt.
He that negotiates between God and man, As God's ambassador, the grand concerns Of judgment and of mercy, should beware Of lightness in his speech. 'Tis pitiful To court a grin, when you should woo a soul; To break a jest, when pity would inspire Pathetic exhortation; and to address The skittish fancy with facetious tales, When sent with God's commission to the heart. So did not Paul. Direct me to a quip Or merry turn in all he ever wrote, And I consent you take it for your text, Your only one, till sides and benches fail. No: he was serious in a serious cause, And understood too well the weighty terms That he had ta'en in charge. He would not stoop To conquer those by jocular exploits, Whom truth and soberness assailed in vain.
Oh, popular applause! what heart of man Is proof against thy sweet seducing charms? The wisest and the best feel urgent need Of all their caution in thy gentlest gales; But swelled into a gust,—who then, alas! With all his canvas set, and inexpert And therefore heedless, can withstand thy power? Praise from the rivelled lips of toothless, bald Decrepitude; and in the looks of lean And craving poverty; and in the bow Respectful of the smutched artificer Is oft too welcome, and may much disturb The bias of the purpose, flow much more Poured forth by beauty splendid and polite, In language soft as adoration breathes? Ah, spare your idol! think him human still; Charms he may have, but he has frailties too; Dote not too much, nor spoil what ye admire.
All truth is from the sempiternal source Of light divine. But Egypt, Greece, and Rome Drew from the stream below. More favoured we Drink, when we choose it, at the fountain head. To them it flowed much mingled and defiled With hurtful error, prejudice, and dreams Illusive of philosophy, so called, But falsely. Sages after sages strove In vain, to filter off a crystal draught Pure from the lees, which often more enhanced The thirst than slaked it, and not seldom bred Intoxication and delirium wild.
In vain they pushed inquiry to the birth
And spring-time of the world, asked, whence is man?
Why formed at all? And wherefore as he is?
Where must he find his Maker? With what rites
Adore him? Will he hear, accept, and bless?
Or does he sit regardless of his works?
Has man within him an immortal seed?
Or does the tomb take all? If he survive
His ashes, where? and in what weal or woe?
Knots worthy of solution, which alone
A Deity could solve. Their answers vague
And all at random, fabulous and dark,
Left them as dark themselves. Their rules of life
Defective and unsanctioned, proved too weak
To bind the roving appetite, and lead
Blind nature to a God not yet revealed.
'Tis revelation satisfies all doubts,
Explains all mysteries except her own,
And so illuminates the path of life
That fools discover it, and stray no more.
Now tell me, dignified and sapient sir,
My man of morals, nurtured in the shades
Of Academus, is this false or true?
Is Christ the abler teacher, or the schools?
If Christ, then why resort at every turn
To Athens or to Rome for wisdom short
Of man's occasions, when in Him reside
Grace, knowledge, comfort, an unfathomed store?
low oft when Paul has served us with a text,
Has Epictetus, Plato, Tully preached!
Men that, if now alive, would sit content
And humble learners of a Saviour's worth,
Preach it who might. Such was their love of truth,
Their thirst of knowledge, and their candour too.
And thus it is. The pastor, either vain
By nature, or by flattery made so, taught
To gaze at his own splendour, and to exalt
Absurdly, not his office, but himself;
Or unenlightened, and too proud to learn,
Or vicious, and not therefore apt to teach,
Perverting often by the stress of lewd
And loose example, whom he should instruct,
Exposes and holds up to broad disgrace
The noblest function, and discredits much
The brightest truths that man has ever seen.
For ghostly counsel, if it either fall
Below the exigence, or be not backed
With show of love, at least with hopeful proof
Of some sincerity on the giver's part;
Or be dishonoured in the exterior form
And mode of its conveyance, by such tricks
As move derision, or by foppish airs
And histrionic mummery, that let down
The pulpit to the level of the stage,
Drops from the lips a disregarded thing.
The weak perhaps are moved, but are not taught,
While prejudice in men of stronger minds
Takes deeper root, confirmed by what they see.
A relaxation of religion's hold
Upon the roving and untutored heart
Soon follows, and the curb of conscience snapt,
The laity run wild.—But do they now?
Note their extravagance, and be convinced.
As nations ignorant of God contrive A wooden one, so we, no longer taught By monitors that mother church supplies, Now make our own. Posterity will ask (If e'er posterity see verse of mine,) Some fifty or an hundred lustrums hence What was a monitor in George's days? My very gentle reader, yet unborn, Of whom I needs must augur better things, Since heaven would sure grow weary of a world Productive only of a race like us, A monitor is wood. Plank shaven thin. We wear it at our backs. There closely braced And neatly fitted, it compresses hard The prominent and most unsightly bones, And binds the shoulders flat. We prove its use Sovereign and most effectual to secure A form not now gymnastic as of yore, From rickets and distortion, else, our lot. But thus admonished we can walk erect, One proof at least of manhood; while the friend Sticks close, a mentor worthy of his charge. Our habits costlier than Lucullus wore, And by caprice as multiplied as his, Just please us while the fashion is at full, But change with every moon. The sycophant That waits to dress us, arbitrates their date, Surveys his fair reversion with keen eye; Finds one ill made, another obsolete, This fits not nicely, that is ill conceived, And making prize of all that he condemns. With our expenditure defrays his own. Variety's the very spice of life That gives it all its flavour. We have run Through every change that fancy at the loom Exhausted, has had genius to supply, And studious of mutation still, discard A real elegance a little used For monstrous novelty and strange disguise. We sacrifice to dress, till household joys Aud comforts cease. Dress drains our cellar dry,
And keeps our larder lean. Puts out our fires,
And introduces hunger, frost, and woe,
Where peace and hospitality might reign.
What man that lives and that knows how to live,
Would fail to exhibit at the public shows
A form as splendid as the proudest there,
Though appetite raise outcries at the cost?
A man of the town dines late, but soon enough
With reasonable forecast and dispatch,
To insure a side-box station at half-price.
You think perhaps, so delicate his dress,
His daily fare as delicate. Alas!
He picks clean teeth, and busy as he seems
With an old tavern quill, is hungry yet.
The rout is folly's circle which she draws
With magic wand. So potent is the spell,
That none decoyed into that fatal ring,
Unless by heaven's peculiar grace, escape.
There we grow early gray, but never wise;
There form connections, and acquire no friend;
Solicit pleasure hopeless of success;
Waste youth in occupations only fit
For second childhood, and devote old age
To sports which only childhood could excuse.
There they are happiest who dissemble best
Their weariness; and they the most polite
Who squander time and treasure with a smile,
Though at their own destruction. She that asks
Her dear five hundred friends, contemns them all,
And hates their coming. They, what can they less?
Make just reprisals, and with cringe and shrug
And bow obsequious, hide their hate of her.
All catch the frenzy, downward from her Grace,
Whose flambeaux flash against the morning skies
And gild our chamber ceilings as they pass,
To her who, frugal only that her thrift
May feed excesses she can ill afford,
Is hackneyed home unlackeyed,—who in haste
Alighting, turns the key in her own door,
And at the watchman's lantern borrowing light,
Finds a cold bed her only comfort left.
Wives beggar husbands, husbands starve their wives,
On Fortune's velvet altar offering up
Their last poor pittance ;—Fortune most severe
Of goddesses yet known, and costlier far
Than all that held their routs in heathen heaven.—
So fare we in this prison-house the world:
And 'tis a fearful spectacle to see
So many maniacs dancing in their chains.
They gaze upon the links that hold them fast
With eyes of anguish, execrate their lot,
Then shake them in despair, and dance again.