The Course Of Time. Book Ii.

Thus said, he waked the golden harp, and thus,
While on him inspiration breathed, began.
As from yon everlasting hills, that gird
Heaven northward, I thy course espied, I judge
Thou from the Artic regions came? Perhaps
Thou noticed on thy way a little orb,
Attended by one moon—her lamp by night;
With her fair sisterhood of planets seven,
Revolving round their central sun; she third
In place, in magnitude the fourth; that orb—
New made, new named, inhabited anew,
(Tho' whiles we sons of Adam visit still,
Our native place; not changed so far but we
Can trace our ancient walks—the scenery
Of childhood, youth, and prime, and hoary age—
But scenery most of suffering and wo,)
That little orb, in days remote of old,
When angels yet were young, was made for man,
And titled Earth—her primal virgin name:
Created first so lovely, so adorned
With hill, and lawn, and winding vale;
Woodland and stream, and lake, and rolling seas;
Green mead, and fruitful tree, and fertile grain,
And herb and flower: so lovely, so adorned
With numerous beasts of every kind, with fowl
Of every wing and every tuneful note;
And with all fish that in the multitude
Of waters swam: so lovely, so adorned,
So fit a dwelling place for man, that as
She rose complete at the creating word,
The morning stars—the Sons of God, aloud
Shouted for joy; and God beholding, saw
The fair design, that from eternity
His mind conceived, accomplished, and, well pleased,
His six days finished work most good pronounced,
And man declared the sovereign prince of all.
All else was prone, irrational, and mute,
And unaccountable, by instinct led:
But man He made of angel form erect,
To hold communion with the heavens above,
And on his soul impressed His image fair,
His own similitude of holiness,
Of virtue, truth, and love; with reason high
To balance right and wrong, and conscience quick
To choose or to reject; with knowledge great,
Prudence and wisdom, vigilance and strength,
To guard all force or guile; and last of all,
The highest gift of God's abundant grace,
With perfect, free, unbiassed will.—Thus man
Was made upright, immortal made, and crowned
The king of all; to eat, to drink, to do
Freely and sovereignly his will entire:
By one command alone restrained, to prove,
As was most just, his filial love, sincere,
His loyalty, obedience due, and faith.
And thus the prohibition ran, expressed,
As God is wont, in terms of plainest truth.
Of every tree that in the garden grows
Thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree
That knowledge hath of good and ill, eat not,
Nor touch; for in the day thou eatest, thou
Shalt die. Go, and this one command obey
Adam, live and be happy, and, with thy Eve,
Fit consort, multiply and fill the Earth.
Thus they, the representatives of men,
Were placed in Eden—choicest spot of earth;
With royal honour, and with glory crowned,
Adam, the Lord of all, majestic walked,
With godlike countenance sublime, and form
Of lofty towering strength; and by his side
Eve, fair as morning star, with modesty
Arrayed, with virtue, grace, and perfect love;
In holy marriage wed, and eloquent
Of thought and comely words, to worship God
And sing his praise—the giver of all good.
Glad, in each other glad, and glad in hope;
Rejoicing in their future happy race.
O lovely, happy, blest, immortal pair!
Pleased with the present, full of glorious hope.
But short, alas, the song that sings their bliss!
Henceforth the history of man grows dark:
Shade after shade, of deepening gloom descends:
And Innocence laments her robes defiled.
Who farther sings, must change the pleasant lyre
To heavy notes of wo. Why—dost thou ask,
Surprised? The answer will surprise thee more.
Man sinned—tempted, he ate the guarded tree,
Tempted of whom thou afterwards shalt hear;
Audacious, unbelieving, proud, ungrateful,
He ate the interdicted fruit, and fell;
And in his fall, his universal race;
For they in him by delegation were,
In him to stand or fall—to live or die.
Man most ingrate! so full of grace to sin—
Here interposed the new arrived—so full
Of bliss—to sin against the Gracious One!
The holy, just, and good! the Eternal Love!
Unseen, unheard, unthought of wickedness!
Why slumbered vengeance? No, it slumbered not.
The ever just and righteous God would let
His fury loose, and satisfy his threat.
That had been just, replied the reverend bard;
But done, fair youth, thou ne'er had'st met me here:
I ne'er had seen yon glorious throne in peace.
Thy powers are great, originally great;
And purified even at the fount of light.
Exert them now; call all their vigour out;
Take room; think vastly; meditate intensely;
Reason profoundly; send conjecture forth;
Let fancy fly; stoop down; ascend; all length,
All breadth explore; all moral, all divine;
Ask prudence, justice, mercy ask, and might;
Weigh good with evil, balance right with wrong,
With virtue vice compare—hatred with love;
God's holiness, God's justice, and God's truth,
Deliberately and cautiously compare
With sinful, wicked, vile, rebellious man,
And see if thou can'st punish sin, and let
Mankind go free. Thou fail'st—be not surpris'd.
I bade thee search in vain. Eternal love—
Harp lift thy voice on high—Eternal love,
Eternal, sovereign love, and sovereign grace,
Wisdom, and power, and mercy infinite,
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God,
Devised the wondrous plan—devised, achieved;
And in achieving made the marvel more.
Attend, ye heavens! ye heaven of heavens, attend!
Attend, and wonder! wonder evermore!
When man had fallen, rebelled, insulted God;
Was most polluted, yet most madly proud;
Indebted infinitely, yet most poor;
Captive to sin, yet willing to be bound;
To God's incensed justice, and hot wrath
Exposed; due victim of eternal death
And utter wo—Harp lift thy voice on high!
Ye everlasting hills!—ye angels bow!
Bow ye redeemed of men! God was made flesh,
And dwelt with man on earth! the Son of God,
Only begotten, and well beloved, between
Men and his Father's justice interposed;
Put human nature on; His wrath sustained;
And in their name suffered, obeyed, and died,
Making his soul an offering for sin;
Just for unjust, and innocence for guilt,
By doing, suffering, dying unconstrained,
Save by omnipotence of boundless grace,
Complete atonement made to God appeased;
Made honourable his insulted law,
Turning the wrath aside from pardoned man.
Thus Truth with Mercy met, and Righteousness,
Stooping from highest heaven, embraced fair Peace,
That walked the earth in fellowship with Love.
O love divine! O mercy infinite!
The audience here in glowing rapture broke—
O love, all height above, all depth below,
Surpassing far all knowledge, all desire,
All thought, the Holy One for sinners dies!
The Lord of life for guilty rebels bleeds—
Quenches eternal fire with blood divine.
Abundant mercy! overflowing grace!
There whence I came, I something heard of men;
Their name had reached us, and report did speak
Of some abominable horrid thing
Of desperate offence they had committed;
And something too of wondrous grace we heard;
And oft of our celestial visitants
What man, what God had done, inquired; but they,
Forbid, our asking never met directly,
Exhorting still to persevere upright,
And we should hear in heaven, tho' greatly blest
Ourselves, new wonders of God's wondrous love.
This hinting, keener appetite to know
Awaked; and as we talked, and much admired
What new we there should learn, we hasted each
To nourish virtue to perfection up,
That we might have our wondering resolved,
And leave of louder praise, to greater deeds
Of loving kindness due. Mysterious love!
God was made flesh, and dwelt with men on earth!
Blood holy, blood divine for sinners shed—
My asking ends—but makes my wonder more.
Saviour of men! henceforth be thou my theme!
Redeeming love, my study day and night!
Mankind were lost, all lost, and all redeemed!
Thou err'st again—but innocently err'st;
Not knowing sin's depravity, nor man's
Sincere and persevering wickedness.
All were redeemed? not all—or thou had'st heard
No human voice in hell. Many refused,
Altho' beseeched, refused to be redeemed;
Redeemed from death to life, from wo to bliss!
Can'st thou believe my song when thus I sing?
When man had fallen, was ruined, hopeless, lost;
Ye choral harps! ye angels that excel
In strength! and loudest, ye redeemed of men!
To God—to Him that sits upon the throne
On high, and to the Lamb, sing honour, sing
Dominion, glory; blessing sing, and praise:
When man had fallen, was ruined, hopeless, lost,
Messiah, Prince of peace, Eternal King,
Died, that the dead might live, the lost be saved.
Wonder, O, heavens! and be astonished, earth!
Thou ancient, thou forgotten earth! Ye worlds admire!
Admire, and be confounded! and thou Hell!
Deepen thy eternal groan—men would not be
Redeemed—I speak of many, not of all—
Would not be saved for lost, have life for death!
Mysterious song! the new arrived exclaimed;
Mysterious mercy! most mysterious hate!
To disobey was mad, this madder far,
Incurable insanity of will.
What now but wrath could guilty men expect?
What more could love, what more could mercy do?
No more, resumed the bard, no more they could:
Thou hast seen hell—the wicked there lament;
And why? for love and mercy twice despised;
The husbandman, who sluggishly forgot
In spring to plow, and sow, could censure none,
Tho' winter clamoured round his empty barns;
But he who having thus neglected, did
Refuse, when Autumn came, and famine threatened,
To reap the golden field that charity
Bestowed—nay, more obdurate, proud, and blind,
And stupid still, refused, tho' much beseeched,
And long entreated, even with Mercy's tears,
To eat what to his very lips was held
Cooked temptingly—he certainly, at least,
Deserved to die of hunger unbemoaned.
So did the wicked spurn the grace of God;
And so were punished with the second death.
The first, no doubt, punition less severe
Intended, death belike of all entire;
But this incurred, by God discharged, and life
Freely again presented, and again despised,
Despised, tho' bought with Mercy's proper blood—
'Twas this dug hell, and kindled all its bounds
With wrath and inextinguishable fire.
Free was the offer, free to all, of life
And of salvation; but the proud of heart,
Because 'twas free, would not accept; and still
To merit wished; and choosing—thus unshipped,
Uncompassed, unprovisioned, and bestormed,
To swim a sea of breadth immeasurable,
They scorned the goodly bark, whose wings the breath
Of God's eternal Spirit filled for heaven,
That stopped to take them in—and so were lost.
What wonders dost thou tell? to merit, how?
Of creature meriting in sight of God,
As right of service done, I never heard
Till now: we never fell; in virtue stood
Upright, and persevered in holiness;
But stood by grace, by grace we persevered;
Ourselves, our deeds, our holiest, highest deeds
Unworthy aught—grace worthy endless praise.
If we fly swift, obedient to his will,
He gives us wings to fly; if we resist
Temptation, and ne'er fall, it is his shield
Omnipotent that wards it off; if we,
With love unquenchable, before him burn,
'Tis he that lights and keeps alive the flame.
Men surely lost their reason in their fall,
And did not understand the offer made.
They might have understood, the bard replied—
They had the Bible—hast thou ever heard
Of such a book? the author God himself;
The subject God and man; salvation, life
And death—eternal life, eternal death—
Dread words! whose meaning has no end, no bounds—
Most wondrous book! bright candle of the Lord!
Star of eternity! the only star
By which the bark of man could navigate
The sea of life, and gain the coast of bliss
Securely; only star which rose on Time,
And, on its dark and troubled billows, still,
As generation drifting swiftly by
Succeeded generation, threw a ray
Of heaven's own light, and to the hills of God,
The everlasting hills, pointed the sinner's eye:
By prophets, seers, and priests, and sacred bards,
Evangelists, apostles, men inspired,
And by the Holy Ghost anointed, set
Apart and consecrated to declare
To earth the counsels of the Eternal One,
This book—this holiest, this sublimest book,
Was sent—Heaven's will, Heaven's code of laws entire
To man, this book contained; defined the bounds
Of vice and virtue, and of life and death;
And what was shadow, what was substance taught.
Much it revealed; important all; the least
Worth more than what else seemed of highest worth:
But this of plainest, most essential truth—
That God is one, eternal, holy, just,
Omnipotent, omniscient, infinite;
Most wise, most good, most merciful and true;
In all perfection most unchangeable:
That man—that every man of every clime
And hue, of every age, and every rank,
Was bad—by nature and by practice bad;
In understanding blind, in will perverse,
In heart corrupt; in every thought, and word,
Imagination, passion, and desire,
Most utterly depraved throughout, and ill,
In sight of Heaven, tho' less in sight of man,
At enmity with God his maker born,
And by his very life an heir of death:
That man—that every man was farther, most
Unable to redeem himself, or pay
One mite of his vast debt to God—nay, more,
Was most reluctant and averse to be
Redeemed, and sin's most voluntary slave;
That Jesus, Son of God, of Mary born
In Bethlehem, and by Pilate crucified
On Calvary—for man thus fallen and lost,
Died; and, by death, life and salvation bought,
And perfect righteousness, for all who should
In his great name believe—that He, the third
In the eternal Essence, to the prayer
Sincere should come, should come as soon as asked,
Proceeding from the Father and the Son,
To give faith and repentance, such as God
Accepts—to open the intellectual eyes
Blinded by sin; to bend the stubborn will,
Perversely to the side of wrong inclined,
To God and his commandments, just and good;
The wild rebellious passions to subdue,
And bring them back to harmony with heaven;
To purify the conscience, and to lead
The mind into all truth, and to adorn
With every holy ornament of grace,
And sanctify the whole renewed soul,
Which henceforth might no more fall totally,
But persevere, though erring oft, amidst
The mists of time, in piety to God,
And sacred works of charity to men:
That he, who thus believed, and practised thus,
Should have his sins forgiven, however vile;
Should be sustained at mid-day, morn, and even,
By God's omnipotent, eternal grace;
And in the evil hour of sore disease,
Temptation, persecution, war, and death,
For temporal death, altho' unstinged, remained,
Beneath the shadow of the Almighty's wings
Should sit unhurt, and at the judgment-day,
Should share the resurrection of the just,
And reign with Christ in bliss for evermore:
That all, however named, however great,
Who would not thus believe, nor practise thus,
But in their sins impenitent remained,
Should in perpetual fear and terror live;
Should die unpardoned, unredeemed, unsaved;
And at the hour of doom, should be cast out
To utter darkness in the night of hell,
By mercy and by God abandoned, there
To reap the harvests of eternal wo.
This did that Book declare in obvious phrase,
In most sincere and honest words, by God
Himself selected and arranged; so clear,
So plain, so perfectly distinct, that none
Who read with humble wish to understand,
And asked the Spirit, given to all who asked,
Could miss their meaning, blazed in heavenly light.
This book—this holy book, on every line
Marked with the seal of high divinity;
On every leaf bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry
And signature of God Almighty stampt
From first to last—this ray of sacred light,
This lamp, from off the everlasting throne,
Mercy took down, and in the night of Time
Stood, casting on the dark her gracious bow;
And evermore beseeching men, with tears
And earnest sighs, to read, believe, and live:
And many to her voice gave ear, and read,
Believed, obeyed; and now, as the Amen,
True, Faithful Witness swore, with snowy robes
And branchy palms surround the fount of life,
And drink the streams of immortality,
For ever happy, and for ever young.
Many believed; but more the truth of God
Turned to a lie, deceiving and deceived;—
Each, with the accursed sorcery of sin,
To his own wish and vile propensity
Transforming still the meaning of the text.
Hear! while I briefly tell what mortals proved,
By effort vast of ingenuity,
Most wondrous, though perverse and damnable;
Proved from the Bible, which, as thou hast heard,
So plainly spoke that all could understand.
First, and not least in number, argued some,
From out this book itself, it was a lie,
A fable framed by crafty men to cheat
The simple herd, and make them bow the knee
To kings and priests,—these in their wisdom left
The light revealed, and turned to fancies wild;
Maintaining loud, that ruined, helpless man,
Needed no Saviour. Others proved that men
Might live and die in sin, and yet be saved,
For so it was decreed; binding the will,
By God left free, to unconditional,
Unreasonable fate. Others believed debased,
That he who was most criminal,
Condemned, and dead, unaided might ascend
The heights of Virtue; to a perfect law
Giving a lame, half-way obedience, which
By useless effort only served to show
The impotence of him who vainly strove
With finite arm to measure infinite;
Most useless effort! when to justify
In sight of God it meant, as proof of faith
Most acceptable, and worthy of all praise.
Another held, and from the Bible held,
He was infallible,—most fallen by such
Pretence—that none the Scriptures, open to all,
And most to humble-hearted, ought to read,
But priests; that all who ventured to disclaim
His forged authority, incurred the wrath
Of Heaven; and he who, in the blood of such,
Though father, mother, daughter, wife, or son,
Imbrued his hands, did most religious work,
Well pleasing to the heart of the Most High.
Others, in outward rite, devotion placed;
In meats, in drinks; in robe of certain shape—
In bodily abasements, bended knees;
Days, numbers, places, vestments, words, and names—
Absurdly in their hearts imagining,
That God, like men, was pleased with outward show.
Another, stranger and more wicked still,
With dark and dolorous labour, ill applied,
With many a gripe of conscience, and with most
Unhealthy and abortive reasoning,
That brought his sanity to serious doubt,
'Mong wise and honest men, maintained that He,
First Wisdom, Great Messiah, Prince of Peace,
The second of the uncreated Three,
Was nought but man—of earthly origin;
Thus making void the sacrifice Divine,
And leaving guilty men, God's holy law
Still unatoned, to work them endless death.
These are a part; but to relate thee all
The monstrous, unbaptised phantasies,
Imaginations fearfully absurd,
Hobgoblin rites, and moon-struck reveries,
Distracted creeds, and visionary dreams,
More bodiless and hideously misshapen
Than ever fancy, at the noon of night,
Playing at will, framed in the madman's brain,
That from this book of simple truth were proved,
Were proved, as foolish men were wont to prove—
Would bring my word in doubt, and thy belief
Stagger, though here I sit and sing, within
The pale of truth, where falsehood never came.
The rest, who lost the heavenly light revealed,
Not wishing to retain God in their minds,
In darkness wandered on: yet could they not,
Though moral night around them drew her pall
Of blackness, rest in utter unbelief.
The voice within, the voice of God, that nought
Could bribe to sleep, though steeped in sorceries
Of Hell, and much abused by whisperings
Of Evil Spirits in the dark, announced
A day of judgment, and a judge,—a day
Of misery, or bliss;—and being ill
At ease, for gods they chose them stocks and stones,
Reptiles, and weeds, and beasts, and creeping things,
And Spirits accursed—ten thousand Deities!
(Imagined worse than he who craved their peace,)
And bowing, worshipped these as best beseemed,
With midnight revelry obscene and loud,
With dark, infernal, devilish ceremonies,
And horrid sacrifice of human flesh,
That made the fair heavens blush. So bad was Sin!
So lost, so ruined, so depraved was man!—
Created first in God's own image fair!
Oh, cursed, cursed Sin! traitor to God,
And ruiner of man! mother of Wo,
And Death, and Hell,—wretched, yet seeking worse:
Polluted most, yet wallowing in the mire;
Most mad, yet drinking Frenzy's giddy cup;
Depth ever deepening, darkness darkening still;
Folly for wisdom, guilt for innocence;
Anguish for rapture, and for hope despair;
Destroyed destroying; in tormenting pained;
Unawed by wrath; by mercy unreclaimed;
Thing most unsightly, most forlorn, most sad—
Thy time on earth is past, thy war with God
And holiness: but who, oh who shall tell,
Thy unrepentable and ruinous thoughts?
Thy sighs, thy groans? Who reckon thy burning tears,
And damned looks of everlasting grief,
Where now, with those who took their part with thee,
Thou sitt'st in Hell, gnawed by the eternal Worm—
To hurt no more, on all the holy hills?
That those, deserting once the lamp of truth,
Should wander ever on, from worse to worse
Erroneously, thy wonder needs not ask:
But that enlightened, reasonable men,
Knowing themselves accountable, to whom
God spoke from heaven, and by his servants warned,
Both day and night, with earnest, pleading voice,
Of retribution equal to their works,
Should persevere in evil, and be lost—
This strangeness, this unpardonable guilt,
Demands an answer, which my song unfolds
In part directly, but hereafter more,
To satisfy thy wonder, thou shalt learn,
Inferring much from what is yet to sing.
Know then, of men who sat in highest place
Exalted, and for sin by others done
Were chargeable, the king and priest were chief.
Many were faithful, holy, just, upright,
Faithful to God and man—reigning renowned
In righteousness, and, to the people, loud
And fearless, speaking all the words of life.
These at the judgment-day, as thou shalt hear,
Abundant harvest reaped; but many too,
Alas, how many! famous now in Hell,
Were wicked, cruel, tyrannous, and vile;
Ambitious of themselves, abandoned, mad;
And still from servants hasting to be gods,
Such gods as now they serve in Erebus.
I pass their lewd example by, that led
So many wrong, for courtly fashion lost,
And prove them guilty of one crime alone.
Of every wicked ruler, prince supreme,
Or magistrate below, the one intent,
Purpose, desire, and struggle day and night,
Was evermore to wrest the crown from off
Messiah's head, and put it on his own;
And in His place give spiritual laws to men;
To bind religion—free by birth, by God,
And nature free, and made accountable
To none but God—behind the wheels of state;
To make the holy altar, where the Prince
Of life incarnate bled to ransom man,
A footstool to the throne; for this they met,
Assembled, counselled, meditated, planned,
Devised in open and secret; and for this
Enacted creeds of wondrous texture, creeds
The Bible never owned, unsanctioned too,
And reprobate in heaven; but by the power
That made, (exerted now in gentler form,
Monopolizing rights and privileges,
Equal to all, and waving now the sword
Of persecution fierce, tempered in hell,)
Forced on the conscience of inferior men:
The conscience that sole monarchy in man,
Owing allegiance to no earthly prince;
Made by the edict of creation free;
Made sacred, made above all human laws;
Holding of heaven alone; of most divine,
And indefeasible authority;
An individual sovereignty, that none
Created might, unpunished, bind or touch;
Unbound, save by the eternal laws of God,
And unamenable to all below.
Thus did the uncircumcised potentates
Of earth debase religion in the sight
Of those they ruled—who, looking up, beheld
The fair celestial gift despised, enslaved;
And, mimicking the folly of the great,
With prompt docility despised her too.
The prince or magistrate, however named
Or praised, who knowing better, acted thus,
Was wicked, and received, as he deserved,
Damnation. But the unfaithful priest, what tongue
Enough shall execrate? His doctrine may
Be passed, tho' mixed with most unhallowed leaven,
That proved to those who foolishly partook,
Eternal bitterness:—but this was still
His sin—beneath what cloak soever veiled,
His ever growing and perpetual sin,
First, last, and middle thought, whence every wish,
Whence every action rose, and ended both—
To mount to place, and power of worldly sort;
To ape the gaudy pomp and equipage
Of earthly state, and on his mitred brow
To place a royal crown: for this he sold
The sacred truth to him who most would give
Of titles, benefices, honours, names;
For this betrayed his Master; and for this
Made merchandise of the immortal souls
Committed to his care—this was his sin.
Of all who office held unfairly, none
Could plead excuse; he least, and last of all.
By solemn, awful ceremony, he
Was set apart to speak the truth entire,
By action, and by word; and round him stood
The people, from his lips expecting knowledge;
One day in seven, the Holy Sabbath termed,
They stood; for he had sworn in face of God
And man, to deal sincerely with their souls;
To preach the gospel for the gospel's sake;
Had sworn to hate and put away all pride,
All vanity, all love of earthly pomp;
To seek all mercy, meekness, truth, and grace;
And being so endowed himself, and taught,
In them like works of holiness to move;
Dividing faithfully the word of life.
And oft indeed the word of life he taught;
But practising, as thou hast heard, who could
Believe? Thus was religion wounded sore
At her own altars, and among her friends.
The people went away, and like the priest,
Fulfilling what the prophet spoke before,
For honour strove, and wealth, and place, as if
The preacher had rehearsed an idle tale.
The enemies of God rejoiced, and loud
The unbeliever laughed, boasting a life
Of fairer character than his, who owned,
For king and guide, the undefiled One.
Most guilty, villanous, dishonest man!
Wolf in the clothing of the gentle lamb!
Dark traitor in Messiah's holy camp!
Leper in saintly garb!—assassin masked
In Virtue's robe! vile hypocrite accursed!
I strive in vain to set his evil forth.
The words that should sufficiently accurse,
And execrate such reprobate, had need
Come glowing from the lips of eldest hell.
Among the saddest in the den of wo,
Thou saw'st him saddest, 'mong the damned, most damned.
But why should I with indignation burn,
Not well beseeming here, and long forgot?
Or why one censure for another's sin?
Each had his conscience, each his reason, will,
And understanding, for himself to search,
To choose, reject, believe, consider, act:
And God proclaimed from heaven, and by an oath
Confirmed, that each should answer for himself;
And as his own peculiar work should be,
Done by his proper self, should live, or die.
But sin, deceitful and deceiving still,
Had gained the heart, and reason led astray.
A strange belief, that leaned its idiot back
On folly's topmost twig—belief that God,
Most wise, had made a world, had creatures made,
Beneath his care to govern, and protect,—
Devoured its thousands. Reason, not the true,
Learned, deep, sober, comprehensive, sound;
But bigoted, one-eyed, short-sighted Reason,
Most zealous, and sometimes, no doubt, sincere—
Devoured its thousands. Vanity to be
Renowned for creed eccentrical—devoured
It's thousands: but a lazy, corpulent,
And over-credulous faith, that leaned on all
It met, nor asked if 'twas a reed or oak;
Stepped on, but never earnestly inquired
Whether to heaven or hell the journey led—
Devoured its tens of thousands, and its hands
Made reddest in the precious blood of souls.
In Time's pursuits men ran till out of breath.
The astronomer soared up, and counted stars,
And gazed, and gazed upon the Heaven's bright face,
Till he dropt down dim-eyed into the grave:
The numerist in calculations deep
Grew gray: the merchant at his desk expired:
The statesman hunted for another place,
Till death o'ertook him, and made him his prey:
The miser spent his eldest energy,
In grasping for another mite: the scribe
Rubbed pensively his old and withered brow,
Devising new impediments to hold
In doubt the suit that threatened to end too soon:
The priest collected tithes, and pleaded rights
Of decimation to the very last.
In science, learning, all philosophy,
Men laboured all their days, and laboured hard,
And dying, sighed how little they had done:
But in religion they at once grew wise.
A creed in print, tho' never understood;
A theologic system on the shelf,
Was spiritual lore enough, and served their turn;
But served it ill. They sinned, and never knew;
For what the Bible said of good and bad,
Of holiness and sin, they never asked.
Absurd—prodigiously absurd, to think
That man's minute and feeble faculties,
Even in the very childhood of his being,
With mortal shadows dimmed, and wrapt around,
Could comprehend at once the mighty scheme,
Where rolled the ocean of eternal love;
Where wisdom infinite its master stroke
Displayed; and where omnipotence, opprest,
Did travel in the greatness of its strength;
And everlasting justice lifted up
The sword to smite the guiltless Son of God;
And mercy smiling bade the sinner go!
Redemption is the science, and the song
Of all eternity: archangels day
And night into its glories look; the saints,
The elders round the throne, old in the years
Of heaven, examine it perpetually;
And every hour, get clearer, ampler views
Of right and wrong—see virtue's beauty more;
See vice more utterly depraved, and vile;
And this with a more perfect hatred hate;
That daily love with a more perfect love.
But whether I for man's perdition blame
Office administered amiss; pursuit
Of pleasure false; perverted reason blind;
Or indolence that ne'er inquired; I blame
Effect and consequence; the branch, the leaf.
Who finds the fount and bitter root, the first
And guiltiest cause whence sprung this endless wo,
Must deep descend into the human heart,
And find it there. Dread passion! making men
On earth, and even in hell, if Mercy yet
Would stoop so low, unwilling to be saved,
If saved by grace of God—Hear, then in brief,
What peopled hell, what holds its prisoners there.
Pride, self-adoring pride, was primal cause
Of all sin past, all pain, all wo to come.
Unconquerable pride! first, eldest sin—
Great fountain-head of evil—highest source,
Whence flowed rebellion 'gainst the Omnipotent,
Whence hate of man to man, and all else ill.
Pride at the bottom of the human heart
Lay, and gave root and nourishment to all
That grew above. Great ancestor of vice!
Hate, unbelief, and blasphemy of God;
Envy and slander; malice and revenge;
And murder, and deceit, and every birth
Of damned sort, was progeny of pride.
It was the ever-moving, acting force,
The constant aim, and the most thirsty wish
Of every sinner unrenewed, to be
A god:—in purple or in rags, to have
Himself adored: whatever shape or form
His actions took; whatever phrase he threw
About his thoughts, or mantle o'er his life,
To be the highest, was the inward cause
Of all—the purpose of the heart to be
Set up, admired, obeyed. But who would bow
The knee to one who served and was dependent?
Hence man's perpetual struggle, night and day,
To prove he was his own proprietor,
And independent of his God, that what
He had might be esteemed his own, and praised
As such—He laboured still, and tried to stand
Alone unpropped—to be obliged to none;
And in the madness of his pride he bade
His God farewell, and turned away to be
A god himself; resolving to rely,
Whatever came, upon his own right hand.
O desperate frenzy! madness of the will!
And drunkenness of the heart! that nought could quench
But floods of wo, poured from the sea of wrath,
Behind which mercy set. To think to turn
The back on life original, and live—
The creature to set up a rival throne
In the Creator's realm—to deify
A worm—and in the sight of God be proud—
To lift an arm of flesh against the shafts
Of the Omnipotent, and midst his wrath
To seek for happiness—insanity
Most mad! guilt most complete! Seest thou those worlds
That roll at various distance round the throne
Of God, innumerous, and fill the calm
Of heaven with sweetest harmony, when saints
And angels sleep—as one of these, from love
Centripetal withdrawing, and from light,
And heat, and nourishment cut off, should rush
Abandoned o'er the line that runs between
Create and increate; from ruin driven
To ruin still, thro' the abortive waste:
So pride from God drew off the bad; and so
Forsaken of him, he lets them ever try
Their single arm against the second death;
Amidst vindictive thunders lets them try
The stoutness of their heart; and lets them try
To quench their thirst amidst the unfading fire;
And to reap joy where he has sown despair:
To walk alone unguided, unbemoaned,
Where Evil dwells, and Death, and moral Night;
In utter emptiness to find enough;
In utter dark find light; and find repose
Where God with tempest plagues for evermore:
For so they wished it, so did pride desire.
Such was the cause that turned so many off
Rebelliously from God, and led them on
From vain to vainer still, in endless chase.
And such the cause that made so many cheeks
Pale, and so many knees to shake, when men
Rose from the grave; as thou shalt hear anon.