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'Tis in this point (undoubtedly the main)
That sacred books do differ from prophane:
They do not ask, so much, for letter'd skill
To understand them, as for simple will:
For as a single, or clear-sighted eye
Admits the light, like an unclouded sky,
So is the truth, by scripture phrase design'd,
Receiv'd into a well disposed mind;
By the same spirit, ready to admit
The written word, as they possess'd who writ;
Who writ, if Christians do not vainly boast,
By inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
In books so writ this great advantage lies,
That the first author of them never dies;
But is still present to instruct, and show,
To them who seek him, what they need to know;
Still, by his chosen servants, to unfold,
As he sees fit, the mysteries of old;
To re-confirm what any sacred pen
Has writ, by proof within the hearts of men,
This is the true and solid reason, why
No difficulties, now objected, lie
Against the volumes writ so long ago,
And in a language that few people know;
Subject, as books, to errours and mistakes,
Which oft transcribing, or translating makes;
While manners, customs, usages of phrase
Well known of old, but not so in our days,
For many obvious reasons, must elude
The utmost force of criticising feud:
Still, all editions verbally contain
The simple, necessary truths and plain,
Of gospel doctrine; and the spirit's aid,
Which is the chief, is not at all decay'd.
Nor can it hurt a reader to suspend
His judgment, where he does not comprehend
A darker text; however it appear,
He knows it cannot contradict a clear:
So that with all the helps, of ev'ry kind,
The shortest, and the surest, is to mind
When read, or heard, and inwardly digest
The plainest texts, as rules to all the rest;
To pray for that good spirit, which alone
Can make its former inspirations known;
The promis'd comforter, th' unerring guide,
Who, by Christ's word, was always to abide
Within his church, not only in the past,
But in all ages, while the world should last;
A church distinguish'd, in the sacred code,
By his perpetual guidance and abode.
Such is the teacher whom our Saviour chose, And writ no books, as human learning knows; Loth as it is, of later years, to preach, That by this teacher he will always teach; Bless all the means of learning, or the want, To them who after his instructions pant: Of reading helps, what holy men express'd, When mov'd to write, are certainly the best; But for the real, understanding part, The book of books is ev'ry man's own heart,
ON THE BISHOP OF GLOCESTER'S DOCTRINE of
WRITING, or scripture, sacred or profane,
Can only render history more plain
Of what was done, or said, by God or man,
Since the creation of the world began:
Tho' ev'ry word in sacred page be true,
To give account, is all that it can do.
Now an account of things, as done, or said, Is not a living letter, but a dead;
A picture only, which may represent,
But cannot give us what is really meant:
He that has got a map into his hand
May use the name, but knows it is not land
So in the Bible when we come to look,
(That is, by way of eminence, The Book)
We must not fancy that it can bestow
The things themselves, which we desire to knows
It can but yield, however true and plain,
Verbal directions how we may obtain..
Tho' a prescription be directly sure,
Upon the patient's taking it, to cure,
No one imagines that the worded bill
Becomes, itself, the remedy for ill;
The medicines taken, as the bill directs,
Procure the salutiferous effects.
Who then can place in any written code
The Holy Ghost's, the Comforter's abode?
"Constant abode supreme illumination—1
What copy can be this, or what translation?
The Spirit's dwelling, by th' attesting pen
Of all th' inspir'd, is in the hearts of men.
Were books his constant residence indeed, What must the millions do who cannot read? When they, who can, so vary in their sense, What must distinguish true from false pretence? If they must follow where the learned guide, What diff'rent spirits in one book abide?
Genius for paradox, however bright,
Can not well justify this oversight:
Better to own the truth, for the truth's sake,
Than to persist in such a gross mistake:
Books are but books; th' illuminating part
Depends on God's good spirit, in the heart.
"The comforter," Christ said, "will come unto,
Abide with, dwell in," (not your books, but) “you."
Just as absurd an ink and paper throne
For God's abode, as one of wood or stone:
If to adore an image be idolatry,
To deify a book is bibliolatry.
ON THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL IN Paul's conversion we discern the case Of human talents, wanting heavenly grace: What persecutions, 'till he saw the light, Against the Christian church did he excite! By his own reason led into mistake, Amongst the flock what havoc did he make! Within himself when, verily, he thought, That, all the while, he did but what he ought.
"For though, according to the promise, his ordinary influence occasionally assists the faithful of all ages; yet his constant abode, and supreme illumination, is in the sacred scriptures of the New Testament."-P. 39. The Doctrine of Grace, &c. by the bishop of Glocester.
His use of reason cannot be deny'd, Nor legal zeal, nor moral life beside;
Blameless as any Jew, or Greek could claim,
Who show'd aversion to the Christian name;
His fund of learning some are pleas'd to add;
And yet, with all th' endowments which he had,
From place to place, with eager steps, he trod,
To persecute the real church of God.
When to Damascus, for the like intent,
With the high-priest's authority he went;
Struck to the ground, by a diviner ray,
The reas'ning, legal, moral zealot lay;
To the plain question put by Jess
Persecute me?" had only to reply,
"What shall I do?"-bis reason, and his wrath
Were both convinc'd, and he embrac'd the faith.
His outward lost, his inward sight renew'd, Truth in its native evidence he view'd; With three days fast he nourish'd his concern, And, a new conduct well prepar'd to learn, Good Auanias, whom he came to bind, Was sent to cure, and to baptise the blind: A destin'd martyr, to his Jewish zeal, Of Christian faith confers the sacred seal.
Of nobler use his reason, while it stood
Without a conference with flesh and blood,
Still, and submissive; when, within, begun
The Father's revelation of the Son;
Whom, 'till the Holy Spirit rise to show,
No pow'r of thought can ever come to know;
The saving mystery, obscur'd by sin,
Itself must manifest itself, within.
Thus, taught of God, Paul saw the truth appear
To his enlighten'd understanding clear:
The pow'r of Christ himself, and nothing less,
Could move its persecutor to profess:
He learn'd, and told it from the real ground,
And prov'd, to all the Christian world around,
That true religion had its true foundation,
Not in man's reason, but God's revelation.
BETWEEN HUMAN REASON AND DIVINE ILLUMI-
NATION, EXEMPLIFIED IN THREE DIFFERENT
AN humble Christian, to whose inward sight
God shows the truth, and then inspires to write;
Because of deeper certainties declar'd,
Than what the mind perceives, when unprepar'd,
From them, who measure all on which he treats,
By the fix'd standard of their own conceits,
Meets with contempt; and very few will own
The real truths, which he has really shown.
A sharp philosopher, who thinks to find
By his own reason, his own strength of mind,
Sublimer things, that lie so far beyond
The scenes to which such forces correspond;
From them, who love to speculate like him,
And think all light, but that of reason, dim,
Meets with admirers; tho' he reasons wrong,
And draws the dupes, if plausible, along.
Now, tho' a searcher should no more despise The use of reason, than he should of eyes;
Yet, if there be a still superior light,
Than faculty of reason has, or sight;
Which all religion seems to pre-suppose,
That God on such, as rightly seek, bestows;
In higher matters how should he decide,
Who takes his reason, only, for his guide?
Such words as nature, reason, common sense,
Furnish all writers with one same pretence;
Altho', in many an acknowledg'd case,
They must fall short, without superior grace:
So that, in things of more momentous kind,
Nature itself directs us not to.mind,
If sacred truth be heartily desir'd,
The greatest rcas'ners, but the most inspir'd.
Whence comes the value for the scripture page,
So justly due, so paid thro' ev'ry age?
Not writ by men of learning, and of parts,
But honest, humble, and enlighten'd hearts;
Who, when they reason'd, reason'd very well;
And how enabl'd, let their writings tell:
Not one of all, but who ascribes the force
Of truth discover'd to an higher source.
Take these three men, so diffrent in their way,
For instance, Behmen, Bolingbroke, and Hay':
They all philosophize on sacred themes,
And build on reason, the two last, their schemes:
The first affirms, that his principia flow
From what God's spirit gave him pow'r to know;
As much a promis'd, as a certain guide,
With Christ's disciples ever to abide.
If Bolingbrokian reason must prevail,
All inspiration is an idle tale:
Writers by that, from Moses down to Paul,
1 spare to mention how he treats them all:
Now if he err'd, whence did that errour spring?
His reason told him there was no such thing;
Foundress, in her philosophizing cast,
Of all his first philosophy, and last.
Hay, better taught, and more ingenuous spark,
Gropes with his reason betwixt light and dark;
Now, gentle glimmerings of truth displays;
Now, lost in fancy's intricater maze,
A motley mixture of such things has got,
As reason could discover, and could not:
Which all the builders on its boasted plan
Prove to be just as manifold as man.
This Behmen knew; and, in his humble way, Became enlighten'd by a steadier ray; First taught himself, by what he heard and saw, That sacred Spirit, from which both arose, Of grace and nature he explained the law; Taught him, of both, the secrets to disclose To them, who, using eyes, and reason too, Were fit for truth in a diviner view.
He does not write from reason; nor appeals, Of course, to what that faculty reveals; Yet, if the common privilege be mine, Reason may see, that something more divine
Religio Philosophi, or the Principles of Morality and Christianity, illustrated from a View of the Universe and of Man's Situation in it, by William Hay, Esq. a volume published in 1753, and not unjustly characterised by our poet. C.
Lies hid, in what the books of Behmen teach,
Tho' it surpass its apprehensive reach;
May see, from what it really apprehends,
That all mere reas'ners Behmen far transcends.
Fond of his reason as a man may be,
He should confess its limited degree;
And, by its fair direction, seek to find
A surer guide to things of deeper kind:
The most sharp-sighted seek for other men,
Who may have seen what lies beyond their ken;
And, in religious matters, most appeals
Are made by men to that, which God reveals.
How is it possible to judge, aright, Of heav'ly things, but by an heav'nly light? Contemn'd by Bolingbroke, by Hay confess'd, By Behmen, possibly at least, possess'd: Truly inspir'd, as pious minds have thought, Jacob was known to live as he had taught; And at his last departing moment cry'd, Now "I go hence to Paradise"——————and dy’d.
The stuff and nonsense, labyrinth and maze, Madness, enthusiam, and such like phrase, Its quick bestowers are oblig'd to own, Ought not to move us, by its eager tone, More than they ought, in reason, to be mov'd, Should we so paint a work which they approv'd.
He, whom the fair Socratical remark Describes, was called exorvos, or the dark; Yet his wise reader, from the good in view, Thought that his darker passages were true: He would not judge of what, as yet, lay hid, By what he did not see, but what he did.
The books of Behme, as none are tied to read, To blame unread they have as little need: As they who read them most, the most commend, Others, at least, may venture to suspend; Or think, with refrence to such books as these, Of Heraclitus, and of Socrates.
THOUGHTS UPON HUMAN REASON, OCCASIONED BY READING SOME EXTRAVAGANT DECLAMATIONS IN ITS FAVOUR..
YES, I have read them-but I cannot find
Much depth of sense in writers of this kind:
They all retail, as they proceed along,
Or superficial sentiments, or wrong:
Of reason! reason! they repeat the cries,
And reason's use-which nobody denies.
All sharers in it follow, I suppose,
Each one his reason, as he does his nose;
When he intends to reach a certain spot,
Whether he finds the road to it, or not:
With equal sense a postulatum begs
The use of reason, as the use of legs.
Full well these rational adepts declaim
On points, at which their reason can take aim;
But when they talk beyond them, what mistakes,
Of various kind, their various reason makes!
All are for one same rule; and in its use
All singly clear, and mutually abstruse.
What plainer demonstration can be had,
That their original pretence is bad;
Who say Their own, or human reason's, light
Must needs direct them to determine right?
What greater proof of a superior skill
Needful to reas'ners, reason how they will?
Sense to discern, and reason to compare,
Are gifts that merit our improving care;
But want an inward light, when all is done,
As seeds, and plants do that of outward sun:
Main help neglected, tasteless fruits arise;
And wisdom grows insipid in the wise.
Tho' all these reason-worshippers profess
To guard against fanatical excess,
Enthusiastic heat-their fav'rite theme
Draws their attention to the cold extreme;
Their fears of torrid fervours freeze a soul;
To shun the zone they send it to the pole.
The very sound of rational, and plain,
Contents, where sense is neither of the twain,
A world of readers; whose polite concern
Is to be learned, without pains to learn:
To please their palates, with a modish treat,
Cheap is the cost-and here is the receipt-
"Let reason, first, imagination, passions, Be clean drest up in pretty-worded fashions; Then let imagination, passions, reason, Change places round, at each commodious season; 'Till reason, passions, and imagination Have prov'd the point, by their complete rotation.”
ON FAITH, REASON, AND SIGHT,
CONSIDERED AS THE THREE Distinct MEDIUMS
OF HUMAN PERCEPTION.
THERE is a threefold correspondent light,
That shines to faith, to reason, and to sight:
The first, eternal, bringing into view
Celestial objects, if the faith be true;
The next, internal; which the reas'ning mind
Consults in truths of an ideal kind;
The third, external; and perceiv'd thereby
All outward objects that affect the eye.
Each light is good within its destin'd sphere;
Nor with each other do they interfere :
Faith does not reason, reason does not see,
Nor sight extend beyond a fixt degree:
Yet faith in light of a superior kind
Cannot be call'd irrational, or blind;
Because an higher certainty, display'd,
Includes the force of all inferior aid.
As body, soul, and spirit make a man, Each has the help of its appointed plan; Sight, hearing, smell, and taste, and feeling sense, What the corporeal nature wants, dispense: Thinking, comparing, judging, and the whole Of reasoning faculties, assist the soul: Faith, and whatever else may be exprest By grace celestial, makes the spirit blest.
To heal defect, or to avoid excess,
The greater light should still correct the less;
And form, within the right obedient will,
A seeing, reas'ning, and believing skill:
While body moves as outward sense directs;
And soul perceives what reason's light reflects;
And spirit, fill'd with lustre from above,
Obeys by faith, and operates by love.
A sober person, tho' his eyes are good,
Slights not the truths by reason understood;
Nor just conclusions, under the pretence
Of contradiction to his seeing sense;
Knowing the limits too that reason bath,
He does not seek to quench the light of faith;
But rationally grants, that it may teach
What human stretch of reason cannot reach.
As sight to reason, in the things that lie Beyond the ken of the corporeal eye, Unburt, uninjur'd, yields itself of course, So well-taught reason owns a higher force; By faith enlighten'd, it enjoys a rest In clearer light to find its own supprest; Suffering no more, for want of its display, Than Moon and stars in full meridian day.
To make the reas'ning faculty of man Do more, or less to help him, than it can, Is equally absurd; but worse to slight, Or want the benefits of faith, than sight: If he who sees no outward light be blind, How dismal dark must be the faithless mind! The one is only natural defect, The other wilful, obstinate neglect.
Pretence of reason, for it is pretence Foolish and fatal, in the saddest sense; For reason cannot alter what is true, Or any more prevent, than eyes can do; Both, by the limits which they feel, proclaim The real want of a celestial flame: How is it possible to see, in fine,
The things of God, without a light divine?
BETWEEN RUSTICUS, THEOPHILUS, AND ACADE. MICUS, ON THE NATURE, power, anD USE OF HUMAN LEARNING, IN MATTERS OF RELIGION. FROM MR. LAW'S WAY TO DIVINE
YES, Academicus, you love to hear
The words of Jacob Behmen made so clear;
But the truth is, the fundamental good,
At which he aims, you have not understood;
Content with such good notions as befit
Your learned reason, and your searching wit,
To make a talk about, you gather still
More ample matter for your hear-say skill:
You know yourself, as well as I, that this
Is all your joy in him; and hence it is
That you are so impatient, ev'ry day,
For more and more of what his pages say;
So vex'd, and puzzl'd, if you cannot find
Their meaning open'd to your eager mind;
Nor add new notions, and a stronger force,
To heighten still your talent of discourse.
With all your value for his books, as yet,
This disposition makes you to forget
How oft they tell you, and how well they show,
That this inordinate desire to know,
This heaping up of notions, one by one,
For subtle fancy to descant upon,
While Babel, as you think, is overthrown,
Is building up a new one of your own;
Your Babylonish reason is the pow'r,
That seeks materials to erect its tow'r:
The very scriptures, under such a guide,
Will only nourish your high-soaring pride;
Nor will you penetrate, with all your art,
Of Jacob's writings the substantial part.
The works of Behmen would you understand? Then, where he stood, see also that you stand; Begin where he began; direct your thought To seek the blessing only, that he sought; The heart of God; that, by a right true faith, He might be sav'd from sin, and Satan's wrath: While thus the humble seeker stood resign'd, The light of God broke in upon his mind: But you, devoted to the pow'r, alone, Of speculative reason, all your own, Would reach his ladder's top at once, nor try The pains of rising, step by step, so highBut, on this subject, by your looks, I sce You'd rather hear Theophilus than me.
Why really, Academicus, the main Of all that Rusticus, so bluntly plain, Has here been saying, tho' it seem so hard, Hints truth enough to put you on your gua.J: Much in the same mistake your mind has been, That many of my learned friends are in; Who, tho' admirers, to a great degree, Of truths in Jacob Behmen, which they see, Yet, of all people, have the least pretence To real benefit received from thence: Train'd up in controversy, and dispute; Accustom'd to maintain, or to refute, All propositions, only by the light Of their own reason judging what is right,
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN RUSTICUS, THEOPHILUS, &c.
They take this guide in truths of ev'ry kind,
Both where it sees, and where it must be blind;
So that in regions, where a light divine
Demonstrates truth, and reason cannot shine,
The real good is hidden from their view,
And some such system rises up, in lieu,
As birth or education, mode or place,
In course of life, has led them to embrace.
Thus with the learned papist, in his creed,
The learned protestant is not agreed;
Not that, to either, truth and light have taught
To entertain so opposite a thought;
But education's contrary supplies
Have giv'n them protestant, and popish eyes;
And reason being the accustom'd light
Of both the parties, and of either sight,
Decisions protestant, and popish too,
Can find it work enough, and tools enoo,
To shape opinions of a diff'rent growth,
Whilst learning is an open field to both;
And, of its harvest, the inur'd to reap
With greater skill can show the greater heap.
So then I must, as I perceive by you,
Renounce my learning, and my reason too,
If I would gain the necessary lights
To understand what Jacob Behmen writes:
I cannot yield, as yet, to such advice;
Nor make the purchase at so dear a price:
I hope the study of the scripture text
Will do for me; and leave me unperplext
With his deep matters-Little did I know
That learning had, in you, so great a foe.
Be not uneasy; learning has in me
No foe at all, not in the least degree;
No more than has the science, or the skill,
To build an house to dwell in, or a mill
For grinding corn-I think an useful art
Of human things the noblest, for my part:
Knowledge of books or languages, or aught
That any person has been duly taught,
I would not ask him to renounce, or say
They might not ali be useful, in their way:
I would not blame, within its proper place,
The art of throwing silk, or making lace;
Or any art, confin'd to its own sphere;
But then the measure of its use is there:
Some we call liberal, and some we call
Mechanic; now the circle of them all
Does but show forth, in its most perfect plan,
The natural abilities of man;
The pow'rs and faculties of human mind,
Whether the man be well, or ill incliu'd:
The most unjust, and wicked debauchee,
Regarding neither God, nor man, may be,
In any one, or more, of all the train,
Of greater skill than others can obtain.
But now, redemption of the human race
By Christ, with all its mysteries of grace,
ls, in itself, as it has always been,
Of quite another nature; nor akin
To art, or science, which, for worldly views,
The natural, or outward man, can use:
It is an inward fitness to revive
That heav'nly nature, which was once alive
In Paradise; that blissful life within
The human creature which was lost by sin:
It breathes a spark of life, to re-create
The poor-fall'n man in his first happy state;
By which, awaken'd into new desires,
After his native country he inquires;
How he may rise above this earthly den,
And get into his father's house again.
This is redemption; or the life divine
Off'ring itself, on one hand, with design
That inward man, who lost it, to restore
To all the bliss which he was in before;
And, on the other, 'tis the man's desire,
Will, faith, and hope, which earnestly aspire
After that life; the hunger, thirst, and call
To be deliver'd, by it, from the fall.
Now whether man, in this awaken'd strife,
Breathe forth his longings after this good life,
In Hebrew, Greek, or any English sound,
Or none at all, but silent sigh profound,
Can be of no significancy; He,
That knows but one, or uses all the three,
Neither to him, more distant, or more near,
Will this redeeming life of God appear:
Can you conceive it more to shine upon
Men of more languages, than men of one?
He who can make a grammar for High Dutch,
Or Welch, or Greek, can you suppose, as such,
In faith, and hope, and goodness, will excell
A man, that scarce his mother tongue can spell?
If this supposal, then, be too absurd,
No hurt is done, no enmity incurr'd,
To learning, science, reason, critic wit,
By giving them the places which they fit;
Amongst the ornaments of life below,
Which the most profligate as well may know,
(One of the most abandon'd vicious will)
As one who, fearing God, escheweth ill,
Therefore no truths, concerning this divine
And heav'nly life, can come within the line
Of all this learning; as exalted far
Above the pow'r of trial at its bar;
Where both the jury, and the judges too,
Are born with eyes incapable to view;
Living, and moving in this world's demesne,
They have their being in another scene;
The life divine no abler to descry,
Than into Heav'n can look an eagle's eye.
If you, well read in ancient books, my friend,
To publish Homer's Iliad should intend,
Or Cæsar's Commentaries, and make out [doubt;
Some things more plain-you have the skill, na
As well provided for the work, perhaps,
As one to make his baskets, one his traps;
But if you think that skill in ancient Greek,
And Latin, helps you, of itself, to seek,
Find, and explain the spirit, and the sense
Of what Christ said, it is a vain pretence,
And quite unnatural; of equal kind
With the endeavour of a man born blind,
Who talks about exhibiting the sight
Of diff'rent colours, beautifully bright.
Doctrines, wherein redemption is concern'd,
No more belong to men as being learn'd,
Than colours do to him, who never saw
The light, that gives to all of them the law:
From like unnatural attempt proceeds
That huge variety of sects, and creeds,
Which, from the same true scripture, can deduce
What serves each diffrent errour, for its use:
Papist, or protestant, Socinian class,
Or Arian, can as easily amass