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FOR DAVID'S BELIEF OF A FUTURE STATE, INFER
RED FROM BATHSHEBA'S LAST WORDS TO HIM,
UPON HIS DEATH-BED.
Ir David knew not of a future life,
How understood he Bathsheba his wife?
Who, when he lay upon his death-bed, came
To plead for Solomon's succeeding claim;
And, having prosper'd in her own endeavour,
Said " Let my lord, king David, live for ever."
What real wish was Bathsheba's intent,
If life hereafter was not what she meant?
Say that" for ever”—to a king in health,
Meant a long life, prosperity, and wealth;
To one, that lay a dying, you must own,
"Twould be a mere burlesque upon his throne.
If she had pray'd for David's mild release,
Or-" Let my lord, the king, depart in peace”—
(Tho', even then, t'were difficult to stint
Her utmost thought to so minute a hint) [tence,
The short-liv'd comment might have some pre-
But "live for ever"-has no sort of sense,
Unless we grant her meaning to extend To future life, that never has an end: Piety will, and reason must, confess, That her intention could be nothing less: [king" "King live for ever"-and-" God save the Old, or new phrase, salvation is the thing.
No poor salvation to be quickly past,
And with a deadly exit at the last;
To which, when David was so near, what share
Could he enjoy of live for ever's pray'r?
Had he not known what Bathsheba design'd,
A life to come, of everlasting kind.
Tho' num'rous proofs might, readily, be brought
That this was always holy David's thought;
Yet since by learned, and long-winded ways,
Men seek to break the force of ancient phrase,
I single out this plain familiar one-
Now give as plain an answer thereupon.
A strange account; that neither does nor can,
Make any part of true religion's plan;
But must expose it to the ridicule
Of scoffers, judging by this crooked rule:
Its friends, defending truth, as they suppose,
Lay themselves open to acuter foes.
To say that action, neither good nor bad,
From which no harm in nature could be had,
Was chang'd, by positive, commanding will,
Or threat forbidding, to a deadly ill,
Charges, by consequence the most direct,
On God himself that ill, and its effect.
Language had surely come to a poor pass,
Before an author, of distinguish'd class
For shining talents, could endure to make,
In such a matter, such a gross mistake;
Could thus derive death's origin, and root,
From Adam's eating of an harmless fruit.
"From Adam's eating?- Did not God forbid
The taste of it to Adam?"-Yes, he did-
To disobey God's positive command?”
"And was it harmless, must we understand,
No, by no means; but then the harm, we see,
Came not from God's command, but from the tree.
If he command, the action must be good;
If he forbid, some ill is understood:
The tree, the fruit, had dreadful ills conceal'd,
Not made by his forbidding, but reveal'd;
That our first parents, by a true belief,
Might know enough to shun the fatal grief.
The dire experience of a world of woe,
Forbidding mercy will'd them not to know;
Told them what ill was in the false desire,
Which their free wills were tempted to adinire;
That, of such fruit, the eating was-to die-
Its harmless nature was the tempter's lie.
To urge it now and to impute the harm
Of death, and evil, to the kind alarm
Of God's command, so justly understood
To will his creatures nothing else but good,
Is, for a Babel fiction, to resign
Right reason, scripture, and the love divine.
ON THE FALL OF MAN:
OCCASIONED BY THE FOLLOWING REPRESENTATION OF THAT EVENT.
"Neither can it seem strange, that God should lay stress on such outward actions, in their own nature neither good nor evil, when we consider, that in all his dispensations to mankind he has done the same. What was it he made the test of Adam's obedience in Paradise, but the eating of a fruit? An action in itself perfectly indifferent, and from which, if
God had not forbidden it, it would have been
superstition to have abstained." P. 28. of a
Persuasive to Conformity, addressed to the
Quakers by John Rogers, D. D.
Of man's obedience, while in Eden blest,
What a mere trifle is here made the test!
An outward action, in itself, defin'd
To be of perfectly indiff'rent kind;
Which, but for God's forbidding threat severe,
It had been superstition to forbear.
A LETTER TO A FRIEND,
UPON THE MEANING OF ST. PAUL'S EXPRES
SION OF "SPEAKING WITH TONGUES." 1 co-
If you remember, rev'rend sir, the talk
That past betwixt us in the garden walk,
That notion wrong, which learned men had taught,
The gift of tongues was mention'd; when I thought
And that this gift was not at all concern'd
With that of speaking languages unlearn'd.
St. Paul, I said, in his Corinthian charge,
Had treated on the subject more at large;
From whose account one plainly might deduce
The genuine gift, its nature, and its use;
And make appear, from passages enoo,
The vulgar notion not to be the true:
But that to speak in tongues, or speak in tongue,
Was meant of hymns which the Corinthians sung:
This is the gift which the apostle paints,
And lays its practice under due restraints.
You know the chapter-First then let us see
How tongues do there with languages agree;
Then how with hymns; and let which better suits
'Th' apostle's context regulate disputes. [known,
First; "he that speaketh in a tongue" (un-
Translators add, for reasons of their own)
"Speaketh to God," and speaketh "not to men”—
Pecular tokens of an hymn-again,
For "no man understandeth him"-from hence
"Tis plain, that languages was not the sense:
Would he rise up, who had them at command,
To speak in one, that none could understand?
What can be more unlikely to suppose?
Yet thus the learned commentators glose;
As their mistake about the gift imply'd
The Christians guilty of this awkward pride:
Such fact they make no scruple to advance,
As would appear absurd in a romance :
One in his softer, one his harsher terms,
The same miraculous disgrace affirms:
All, from the difficulty, try some shape,
Whilst there is no escaping, to escape.
Whereas, to hymns all phrases correspond;
Of them Corinthian converts were too fond;
And Paul, who will'd them really to rejoice,
But more with heart affected, than with voice,
Authority, with reason mix'd, employs,
Not to repress, but regulate their joys:
The benefit of hymns he understood;
But, most intent upon the church's good,
The gift prophetic more expedient found,
(That is, to preach the gospel, or expound) [Paul,
Than to sing bymns-" the prophet speaks," says
"To men; instructs, exhorts, and comforts all."
Speaking in tongue, or hymning, to proceed,
May edify the singer's self indeed;
But prophecy the church; a private soul
Should always yield the pref'rence to the whole:
Consistent all, if hymning he explains;
First use a language to the church unknown,
Then, in another, for his fault atone?
What reason, possible, can be assign'd,
Why the known tongue should be at first declin'd?
This difficulty, and so all the rest,
The nature of an hymn explains the best. [saint,
"Now should I come amongst you," says the
"Speaking with tongues" (should only come to
"What shall it profit you, except I preach ?[chant)
Some revelation, knowledge, doctrine teach?"
And here the vulgar meaning of the word,
For apostolic use, is too absurd;
He scarce would if the speaking in a tongue,
Unknown to Christians, whom he came among;
Nor would a question find with him a place,
About their profit, in so gross a case:
He, plainly, hints a coming, not design'd
To please their ear, but to instruct their mind:
The real profit which he pointed at;
And hymns themselves were useless without that.
That such a speaking, as is mentioned here,
Was musical, is evidently clear
From the allusion, which he then propounds,
To pipe, and harp, and instrumental sounds;
Which none can urge, with reason, to belong
So properly to language, as to song;
Tho' it may serve for both, in some respect,
Yet here one sees to which it must direct:
"If pipe, or harp, be indistinctly heard,
No tune, or meaning can be thence inferr'd;
If an uncertain sound the trumpet yield,
How shall a man make ready for the field?"
Thus of dead instruments; of them that live,
So ye, th' apostle adds, except ye give
Words, by the tongue, that men can apprehend,
Ye speak, but, as to hearers, to no end;
And (what with hymning posture seems to square)
Will be like men who speak into the air.
"So ye," to show how tune and song agree,
If languages unknown, what sense remains?
Would Paul affirm, that speaking might do good,
In foreign languages, not understood,
To a man's self? Would he so gently treat
Such a suppos'd enormous self-conceit?
Would he vouchsafe to pay, the chapter thro',
Respect to tongues, if taken in this view?
Would he allow, nay choose it?-
Is said of tongues in the succeeding text.
"I will you all to speak with tongues"-to sing Unknown, and easy too to understand,
Makes this a plain, intelligible thing;
Except ye utter with the tongue," says he,
"Words that are easy to be understood"
(Which in a foreign tongue they never could)
"How shall the thing be known to any one
That ye have spoken (that is, sung) upon?"
And, what with hymning posture seems to square,
He adds, "for ye shall speak into the air."
The other meaning, which they spread about,
No commentators have, or can make out:
That he should will them all to sing was just,
And properly to use the gift, or trust;
For his intention was not to reduce
Singing itself, but its improper use:
It was the good apostle's great concern,
To preach the gospel so that most might learn:
This was the gift, in which he rather will'd
Such as had been converted to be skill'd.
Speaking in tongue was good; but this, he knew,
Was the more useful talent of the two:
Greater its owner, but with an except,
That shows the justice for an hymner kept;
The matter sung, who, if he could express
To edify the hearers, was not less;
Interpretation render'd them alike;
But does not this absurd supposal strike,
That in plain speaking, on some Christian head,
One should interpret what himself had said?
Except ye utter with the tongue-unknownTranslators here thought fit to let alone;
That could not be unknown they must disband.
It was enough to show them their mistake,
To see what incoherence it would make;
Yet they not minding, just as they think fit,
Sometimes insert it, and sometimes omit:
But if the epithet, at first, be right,
Why is it kept so often out of sight?
Do not omissions carry, all along,
Tacit confession of its being wrong?
Tacit confession, which is open proof
How little can be said in its behoof.
"They who shall speak in tongue, and they who Unless the meaning of the voice be clear," [hear, (The sense not being within mutual reach,) "Will be," says Paul," barbarians each to each," Or foreigners and therefore, is his drift, "With all your fondness for the speaking gift, Have the whole church's benefit in view; Let him, who speaks in tongue, interpret too." Can such concession, such allowance made, Suit with that insupportable parade,
And show of gift, which commentators vent,
Giving a meaning that could scarce be meant?
While zeal for hymns, a natural effect
In novices, though wanting to be check'd,
Accounts for checking, for allowing phrase,
For ev'ry motive that St. Paul displays;
His placid reas'ning and his mild rebuke;
For which no insolence of gift could look :
No insolence, I say, of such a kind
As commentators, rashly, have assign'd
To the first Christians; which the latter now,
Suppose it offer'd, never would allow.
"For if I pray in tongue," St. Paul pursues,
"My spirit prayeth; but no fruit accrues
To them, who do not understand my pray'rs-"
And what the remedy which he prepares?
Why, it is this" I will so" (sing or) " pray,
That all may understand what I shall say:"
Plain the two phrases in the verse proclaim,
That praying here, and singing is the same;
That some Corinthians so display'd their art,
That none but they themselves could bear a part:
Hence to interpret hymns his words ordain,
Or else to sing intelligibly plain;
Praying, or praising-for, says he again,
"How shall unlearned persons say amen
To thy thanksgiving, if, when thou shalt bless,
They understand not what thy words express?
Thou verily hast given thanks, and well;
But this, unedified, they cannot tell;"
The common benefit is still his aim,
True, real glory of the Christian name,
In languages unknown, was pray'r and praise Perform'd by Christians, in th' apostles days? Was that a time, or was the church a place, For gifted ostentation to disgrace?
FAMILIAR EPISTLES TO A FRIEND,
UPON A SERMON ENTITLED, THE OFFICE AND OPERATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. BY THE REV. MR. WARBURTON.
A STRANGE discourse, in all impartial views,
This that you lent me, doctor, to peruse:
Had you not ask'd-a subject of this sort
Might, of itself, a few remarks extort,
To show how much a very learned man
Has been mistaken in his preaching plan.
Preaching (a talent of the gospel kind,
By-preaching peace thro' Jesus Christ-defin'd
Should, one would think, in order to increase
The gospel good, confine itself to peace;
Exert it's milder influence, and draw
The list'ning crowds to love's uniting law:
For should the greatest orator extend
The pow'rs of sound to any other end;
Regard to healing sentiments postpone,
And battle all that differ from his own;
Tho' he could boast of conquest, yet how far
From peace, through Jesus, through himself is war!
How widely wanders, from the true design
Of preaching Christ, the bellicose divine!
If amongst them, who all profess belief
In the same gospel, such a warlike chief
Should, in the pulpit, labour to erect
His glaring trophies, over ev'ry sect
That does not just fall in with his conceit,
And raise new flourish upon each defeat;
As if, by dint of his haranguing strain,
So many foes had happily been slain;
Tho' it were sure that what he said was right,
Is he more likely, think you, to invite,
To win th' erroneous over to his mind,
By eloquence of such an hostile kind,
Or to disgrace, by arts so strongly weak,
The very truths that he may chance to speak?
Like thoughts to these would, naturally, rise
Out of your own occasional surprise,
When, purchasing the book, you dipt into't,
And saw the preacher's manner of dispute;
How man by man, and sect by sect display'd,
He pass'd along from preaching to parade;
Confuting all that came within his way,
Tho' too far off to hear what he should say:
Reason, methinks, why candour would not choose,
Where no defence could follow, to accuse;
Where gen'rous triumph no attacks can yield
To the unquestion'd master of the field:
Where names, tho' injur'd without reason why,
Absent, or present, can make no reply
To the most false, or disingenuous hint,
Till time, perchance, produces it in print:
When, we may take for granted, it is clad
In its best fashion, tho' it be but bad.
This one discourse is printed, we are told,
The main of sev'ral sermons to unfold:
For one grand subject all of them were meant-
The Holy Spirit, whom the Father sent;
Th' indwelling Comforter, th' instructing Guide;
Who was, Christ said, for ever to abide
With, and in his disciples here below,
And teach them all that they should want to know,
A glorious theme! a comfortable one!
For preachers to exert themselves upon;
First taught themselves, and fitted to impart
God's truth and comfort to an honest heart:
Some such, at least, imagine to have been
Amongst the flock that came to Lincoln's Inn;
With a sincere desire to hear, and learn
That, which became a Christian's chief concern:
Pleas'd with the preacher's text, with hopes that
Might prove an instrument, in some degree, [he
Of their perception of an holy aid,
Fruit of that promise which the Saviour made;
Might help them, more and more, to understand
How near true help and comfort is at hand;
How soon the Spirit moves upon the mind,
When it is rightly humbled and resign'd:
With what a love to ev'ry fellow-soul
One member of the church regards the whole;
Looks upon all mankind as friends, or shares
To heartiest enemies his heartier pray'rs.
I might go on; but you, I know, will grant,
Such is the temper that we really want:
And such, if preachers ever preach indeed,
If pastors of a flock will really feed,
They will endeavour solely to excite,
And move divided Christians to unite;
If not in outward forms, that but supply
A loftier Babel without inward tye,
Yet in a common friendliness of will,
That wishes well to ev'ry creature still;
That makes the centre of religion's plan
A god-like love embracing ev'ry man.
No office seems more sacred, and august,
Than that of preachers who fulfill their trust;
Working with God, and helping men to find
The Prince of life, the Saviour of mankind:
Who came himself a preacher, from on high,
Of peace to all; the distant and the nigh.
So said the saint, whose preaching was the same,
To Jew, to Greek-salvation thro' his name-
Who taught, thro' him, to preach immortal life,
Avoiding questions that engender strife;
Patient, and meek, and gentle unto all,
Instructing even opposers without gall;
If peradventure God might give them grace
The truth, when kindly offer'd, to embrace.
If these conditions preaching may demand,
What must we think of the discourse in hand?
Which, when we read, is apter to suggest
A diff'rent temper in the preacher's breast;
A text perverted from its native scope;
A disappointment of all hearing hope.
Here is a long dispute, in his first head,
About what doctor Middleton had said;
That "when the gift of tongues was first bestow'd
'Twas but an instantaneous sign, that show'd'
The gospel's chosen minister; and then,
That purpose signified, it ceas'd again:
So was its type, the fiery tongue, a flash
Of light'ning quickly vanish'd"—and such trash-
To which a minister, who knew the press,
Ill chose the time, when preaching, to digress;
To take a text affording, thro' the whole,
Such grounds of comfort to a Christian soul,
And then neglect; to preach a poor debate,
That could but shine at pamphleteering rate;
That, from the pulpit, must disgust the pew
Of sager bench, and sober students too.
You may, hereafter, if you choose it, see
How they mistook, both Middleton and he,
The gift of tongues; how little, quite throughout,
They knew, tho' learned, what they were about:
In present lines, I shall but just relate
One instance of the, no uncommon, fate
Of learned men, who, in deep points exact,
Forget, sometimes, the most apparent fact.
Th' apostles, gifted by the Holy Ghost, Began to speak with tongues, at Pentecost; "But did not"-so the preacher says" begin To speak, before the multitude came in." He urges roundly how, in this respect, "The learned Middleton did not reflect, That in a private room they all were set, And tongues not spoken, till the people met." Now if you read the Pentecostal facts, As you will find them written in the Acts, From his reflection tho' the point lay hid, The text affirms, expressly, that they did. No learning wanted to determine this; 'Tis what a reading child could never miss: This very gift, it is exceeding clear,
Was that which brought the multitude to hear: "Speaking with tongues" foregoing words proclaim; The next-" when this was nois'd abroad"-they
Scarce to be thought that, studying the case, With formal purpose to explain a place, A man so learned, and acute, could make, Could preach, could publish, such a flat mistake:
But 'tis the fate of great, and eager wits, To trust their memory too much, by fits.
To prove that Middleton's dispute was wrong Takes up the pages, for a sermon long: Soon after this you'll see another start, To fill his first division's second part: For having touch'd upon the names of all The gifts enumerated by Saint Paul, Then, in what sense the scripture was inspir'd, Higher, or lower, comes to be inquir'd: The high he calls "organical;" the low "Partial;" and "true;" as he proceeds to show. This is the summary of what is said, Touching the Holy Ghost, in his first head; As guide to truth, and aiding to excite, To clear, to give the understanding light. What makes it sermon is the text prefixt, Tho' scarce a word of it is intermixt; Consistently enough, for it has none Which suit the topics that he dwells upon: Topics, without a dignity to grace Text, office, audience, person, time, or place. But were this all, and did not what he spake Lead, by degrees, to serious mistake, Taking a text, for form sake, to prepare The church to hear some shop-renown'd affair, (Too oft the turn of the polite divine) Would hardly merit your regard, or mine; But, sir, it is not only misapply'd, This glorious text, but in effect deny'd; Or misconceiv'd; and therefore cutting short, At present, errours of less fatal sort, Let us pursue this subject, in the next, And from the sermon vindicate the text.
You wonder'd much, why any man of parts
Would use, in preaching, low, invective arts;
By which the vain disputings, that infest
The Christian world, have seldom been supprest;.
But often heighten'd, and that use destroy'd
For which fine talents ought to be employ'd
If one can judge from reading this divine,
Whose parts and talents would be really fine,
If juster notions of the heav'nly grace
Taught but the earthly not to quit their place,
If one can judge, I say, from stated laws,
In his discourses, what should be the cause
Of such perversion of a lively wit,
In erudite possessors, this is it.
They think that, now, religion's sole defence
Is learning, history, and critic sense;
That with apostles, as a needful guide,
The Holy Spirit did indeed abide;
But, having dictated to them a rule
Of faith, and manners, for the Christian school,
Immediate revelation ceas'd, and men
Must now be taught by apostolic pen :
Canon of scripture is complete; and they
May read, and know, what doctrine to obey:
To look for inspiration is absurd;
The Spirit's aid is in the written word:
They who pretend to his immediate ca'l,
From pope to quaker, are fanatics all.
Thus, having prov'd, at large, to Christians met,
What no one Christian ever doubted yet,
That the New Testament was really writ
By inspiration, which they all admit,
He then subjoins that-" this inspir'd record
Fulfill'd the promise of our blessed Lord;"
(Fulfill'd it" eminently," is the phrase)
"For tho' the faithful, in succeeding days,
Occasionally find, in ev'ry place,
The Spirit's ordinary help, and grace,
His light supreme, his constant, fixt abode,
Is in the scriptures of this sacred code."
This was the sense, not easy to explore, When, reck'ning up the Spirit's fruits before, "Scripture," said he (which this account explains)
"Does not record them only, but contains;"
"CONTAINS," in capitals-as if he took
The scripture to be something more than book;
Something alive, wherein the Spirit dwelt,
That did not only tell his fruits, but felt.
"The sure deposit of the Spirit's fruits
In holy scripture," (he elsewhere computes)
"Fulfill'd the Saviour's promise, in a sense
Very sublime"-So it should seem, from hence,
That eminently, and sublimely, thus
The Holy Spirit should abide with us.
If I mistake him, or mis-represent,
You'll show me where, for 'tis not with intent:
I want, if possible, to understand
A sentence coming from so fam'd a hand :
Tho' plain the words, 'tis difficult to solve
What Christian sense he meant them to involve:
In ev'ry way that words, and sense agree,
'Tis perfect bibliolatry to me:
No image worship can be more absurd,
Than idolizing thus the written word;
Which, they who wrote intended to excite
Attention to our Lord's predicted light;
To that same Spirit, leading human thought,
By which themselves, and all the good were
Preaching that word, which a diviner art,
Which God himself had written on the heart.
How can the best of books (for 'tis confest
That, of all books, the Bible is the best)
Do any more than give us an account
Of what was said, for instance, on the Mount?
Of what was done, for instance, on the cross,
In order to retrieve the human loss?
What more than tell us of the Spirit's aid,
Far as his fruits by words can be display'd?
But words are only the recording part,
The things contain'd must needs be in the heart;
Spirit of God no more in books demands
To dwell, himself, than temples made with hands.
"Fruits of the spirit," as St. Paul defin'd?
"Are love, joy, peace"-the blessings of the mind;
The proofs of his abiding-who can brook
A meek, a gentle, good, long-suff'ring book?
Or let true faith, and temperance, be sunk
To faith in writings, that are never drunk?
In fine, whatever pen and ink presents,
Can but contain historical contents;
Nor can the fruits of Spirit be in print,
In any sense, but as recorded in't.
Plain as this is, and strange, as you may think, The learned worship paid to pen and ink, It is the main hypothesis, you'll find, On which are built discourses of this kind; Which yet can give us, for a scripture clue, What contradicts its very letter too: As this has done-be shown as we go on----By these important verses of St. John.
THE gospel's simpler language being writ,
Not for the sake of learning, or of wit,
But to instruct the pious, and the meek;
When its intent mere critics come to seek,
We find, on plain intelligible text,
The variorum comments most perplext.
Such is the text before us; and so plain
The Saviour's promise, which the words contain,
That men, for modern erudition's sake,
Must read, and study to acquire mistake;
Must first observe the notions that prevail,
Amongst the famous in their church's pale;
Firm in the prejudice, that all is right
Which books, or persons, most in vogue, recite;
Then seek, to find, how scripture coincides
With each decision of their knowing guides.
Without some such preparatives as these,
How could the forc'd interpretation please,
That makes a sacred promise, to bestow
Perpetual aid, exhausted long ago?
In one short age?-for God's abiding guide
Withdrew, it seems, when the apostles died;
And left poor millions, ever since, to seek
How dissonant divines had constru'd Greek,
In graver writers one has often read
What in excuse of bookworkship is said;
"It is not ink, and letter, that we own
To be divine, but scripture sense alone;
We have the rule which the apostles made,
And no occasion for immediate aid.”—
Suppose, for once, the gross delusion true;
What must a plain and honest Christian do?
The Spirit's aid how far must he extend,
To bring his Saviour's promise to an end?
This he perceives discourse to dwell upon;
And yet for ever to abide"-has none.
He, for the sake of safety would be glad
To have that spirit which apostles had;
Not one of them has writ, but says, he may ;
That 'tis the bliss for which he ought to pray:
That God will grant it him, his Saviour said,
Sooner than parents give their children bread,
If reading scripture can improve a soul,
This is the sum, and substance of the whole;
And gives it value of such high degree:
For tho' as sacred as a book can be,
'Tis only so, because it best revives
Thought of that good which animated lives;
Because its authors were inspir'd to write,
And saw the truth in it's own heav'nly light;
Because it sends us to that promis'd source
Of light, and truth, which govern'd their discourse,
The Holy Spirit's ever present aid,
With us, and in us--so the Saviour pray'd-
That, when he left the world, the Holy Ghost
Might dwell with Christians, as an inward host;
That teaching, truth, and comfort in the breast,
Might be secur'd by this abiding guest.
"Yes; with apostles"-sunk, by such a thought,
Th' inestimable treasure down to nought;
An history of sunshine may, as soon,
Make a blind man to see the shining noon,
As writings only, without inward light,
Can bring the World's redemption into sight:
Jesus the Christ-the very book has shown,
Without the Holy Spirit none can own:
In words they may, but what is plainly meant,
They cannot give a real, heart consent.