A Poem, In Three Parts.
--Antiquam exquirite matrem.
Et vera incessa patuit Dea.
The nation is in too high a ferment for me to expect either fair war, or even so much as fair quarter, from a reader of the opposite party. All men are engaged either on this side or that; and though conscience is the common word, which is given by both, yet if a writer fall among enemies, and cannot give the marks of _their_ conscience, he is knocked down before the reasons of his own are heard. A preface, therefore, which is but a bespeaking of favour, is altogether useless. What I desire the reader should know concerning me, he will find in the body of the poem, if he have but the patience to peruse it. Only this advertisement let him take beforehand, which relates to the merits of the cause. No general characters of parties (call them either Sects or Churches) can be so fully and exactly drawn, as to comprehend all the several members of them; at least all such as are received under that denomination. For example, there are some of the Church by law established, who envy not liberty of conscience to Dissenters, as being well satisfied that, according to their own principles, they ought not to persecute them. Yet these, by reason of their fewness, I could not distinguish from the numbers of the rest, with whom they are embodied in one common name. On the other side, there are many of our sects, and more indeed than I could reasonably have hoped, who have withdrawn themselves from the communion of the Panther, and embraced this gracious indulgence of his Majesty in point of toleration. But neither to the one nor the other of these is this satire any way intended: it is aimed only at the refractory and disobedient on either side. For those who are come over to the royal party are consequently supposed to be out of gun-shot. Our physicians have observed, that, in process of time, some diseases have abated of their virulence, and have in a manner worn out their malignity, so as to be no longer mortal; and why may not I suppose the same concerning some of those who have formerly been enemies to kingly government, as well as Catholic religion? I hope they have now another notion of both, as having found, by comfortable experience, that the doctrine of persecution is far from being an article of our faith.
It is not for any private man to censure the proceedings of a foreign prince; but, without suspicion of flattery, I may praise our own, who has taken contrary measures, and those more suitable to the spirit of Christianity. Some of the Dissenters, in their addresses to his Majesty, have said, "that he has restored God to his empire over conscience." I confess I dare not stretch the figure to so great a boldness; but I may safely say, that conscience is the royalty and prerogative of every private man. He is absolute in his own breast, and accountable to no earthly power, for that which passes only betwixt God and him. Those who are driven into the fold are, generally speaking, rather made hypocrites than converts.
This indulgence being granted to all the sects, it ought in reason to be expected, that they should both receive it, and receive it thankfully. For, at this time of day, to refuse the benefit, and adhere to those whom they have esteemed their persecutors, what is it else, but publicly to own, that they suffered not before for conscience-sake, but only out of pride and obstinacy, to separate from a church for those impositions, which they now judge may be lawfully obeyed? After they have so long contended for their classical ordination (not to speak of rites and ceremonies) will they at length submit to an episcopal? If they can go so far, out of complaisance to their old enemies, methinks a little reason should persuade them to take another step, and see whither that would lead them.
Of the receiving this toleration thankfully I shall say no more, than that they ought, and I doubt not they will consider from what hand they received it. It is not from a Cyrus, a heathen prince, and a foreigner, but from a Christian king, their native sovereign; who expects a return in specie from them, that the kindness, which he has graciously shown them, may be retaliated on those of his own persuasion.
As for the poem in general, I will only thus far satisfy the reader, that it was neither imposed on me, nor so much as the subject given me by any man. It was written during the last winter, and the beginning of this spring; though with long interruptions of ill health and other hindrances. About a fortnight before I had finished it, his Majesty's declaration for liberty of conscience came abroad; which, if I had so soon expected, I might have spared myself the labour of writing many things which are contained in the third part of it. But I was always in some hope, that the Church of England might have been persuaded to have taken off the penal laws and the test, which was one design of the poem, when I proposed to myself the writing of it.
It is evident that some part of it was only occasional, and not first intended: I mean that defence of myself, to which every honest man is bound, when he is injuriously attacked in print; and I refer myself to the judgment of those who have read the Answer to the Defence of the late King's Papers, and that of the Duchess (in which last I was concerned), how charitably I have been represented there. I am now informed both of the author and supervisors of this pamphlet, and will reply, when I think he can affront me; for I am of Socrates's opinion, that all creatures cannot. In the mean time let him consider whether he deserved not a more severe reprehension than I gave him formerly, for using so little respect to the memory of those whom he pretended to answer; and at his leisure, look out for some original treatise of humility, written by any Protestant in English; I believe I may say in any other tongue: for the magnified piece of Duncomb on that subject, which either he must mean, or none, and with which another of his fellows has upbraided me, was translated from the Spanish of Rodriguez; though with the omission of the seventeenth, the twenty-fourth, the twenty-fifth, and the last chapter, which will be found in comparing of the books.
He would have insinuated to the world, that her late Highness died not a Roman Catholic. He declares himself to be now satisfied to the contrary, in which he has given up the cause; for matter of fact was the principal debate betwixt us. In the mean time, he would dispute the motives of her change; how preposterously, let all men judge, when he seemed to deny the subject of the controversy, the change itself. And because I would not take up this ridiculous challenge, he tells the world I cannot argue: but he may as well infer, that a Catholic cannot fast, because he will not take up the cudgels against Mrs James, to confute the Protestant religion.
I have but one word more to say concerning the poem as such, and abstracting from the matters, either religious or civil, which are handled in it. The first part, consisting most in general characters and narration, I have endeavoured to raise, and give it the majestic turn of heroic poesy. The second being matter of dispute, and chiefly concerning Church authority, I was obliged to make as plain and perspicuous as possibly I could; yet not wholly neglecting the numbers, though I had not frequent occasions for the magnificence of verse. The third, which has more of the nature of domestic conversation, is, or ought to be, more free and familiar than the two former.
There are in it two episodes, or fables, which are interwoven with the main design; so that they are properly parts of it, though they are also distinct stories of themselves. In both of these I have made use of the commonplaces of satire, whether true or false, which are urged by the members of the one Church against the other: at which I hope no reader of either party will be scandalized, because they are not of my invention, but as old, to my knowledge, as the times of Boccace and Chaucer on the one side, and as those of the Reformation on the other.
A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchanged,
Fed on the lawns, and in the forest ranged;
Without unspotted, innocent within,
She fear'd no danger, for she knew no sin.
Yet had she oft been chased with horns and hounds,
And Scythian shafts; and many winged wounds
Aim'd at her heart; was often forced to fly,
And doom'd to death, though fated not to die.
Not so her young; for their unequal line
Was hero's make, half human, half divine.
Their earthly mould obnoxious was to fate,
The immortal part assumed immortal state.
Of these a slaughter'd army lay in blood,
Extended o'er the Caledonian wood,
Their native walk; whose vocal blood arose,
And cried for pardon on their perjured foes.
Their fate was fruitful, and the sanguine seed,
Endued with souls, increased the sacred breed.
So captive Israel multiplied in chains,
A numerous exile, and enjoy'd her pains.
With grief and gladness mix'd, the mother view'd
Her martyr'd offspring, and their race renew'd;
Their corpse to perish, but their kind to last,
So much the deathless plant the dying fruit surpass'd.
Panting and pensive now she ranged alone,
And wander'd in the kingdoms once her own,
The common hunt, though from their rage restrain'd
By sovereign power, her company disdain'd;
Grinn'd as they pass'd, and with a glaring eye
Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
'Tis true, she bounded by, and tripp'd so light,
They had not time to take a steady sight;
For truth has such a face and such a mien,
As to be loved needs only to be seen.
The bloody Bear, an independent beast,
Unlick'd to form, in groans her hate express'd.
Among the timorous kind the quaking Hare
Profess'd neutrality, but would not swear.
Next her the buffoon Ape, as Atheists use,
Mimick'd all sects, and had his own to choose:
Still when the Lion look'd, his knees he bent,
And paid at church a courtier's compliment.
The bristled Baptist Boar, impure as he,
But whiten'd with the foam of sanctity,
With fat pollutions fill'd the sacred place,
And mountains levell'd in his furious race;
So first rebellion founded was in grace.
But since the mighty ravage, which he made
In German forests, had his guilt betray'd,
With broken tusks, and with a borrow'd name;
He shunn'd the vengeance, and conceal'd the shame:
So lurk'd in sects unseen. With greater guile
False Reynard fed on consecrated spoil:
The graceless beast by Athanasius first
Was chased from Nice, then by Socinus nursed:
His impious race their blasphemy renew'd,
And nature's King through nature's optics view'd.
Reversed they view'd him lessen'd to their eye,
Nor in an infant could a God descry:
New swarming sects to this obliquely tend,
Hence they began, and here they all will end.
What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the public scale?
But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring guide!
Thy throne is darkness in the abyss of light,
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
O teach me to believe thee thus conceal'd,
And search no farther than thyself reveal'd;
But her alone for my director take,
Whom thou hast promised never to forsake!
My thoughtless youth was wing'd with vain desires;
My manhood, long misled by wandering fires,
Follow'd false lights; and when their glimpse was gone,
My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
Such was I, such by nature still I am;
Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame.
Good life be now my task; my doubts are done:
What more could fright my faith, than Three in One?
Can I believe Eternal God could lie
Disguised in mortal mould and infancy?
That the great Maker of the world could die?
And after that trust my imperfect sense,
Which calls in question His Omnipotence?
Can I my reason to my faith compel,
And shall my sight, and touch, and taste rebel?
Superior faculties are set aside;
Shall their subservient organs be my guide?
Then let the moon usurp the rule of day,
And winking tapers show the sun his way;
For what my senses can themselves perceive,
I need no revelation to believe.
Can they who say the Host should be descried
By sense, define a body glorified?
Impassable, and penetrating parts?
Let them declare by what mysterious arts
He shot that body through the opposing might
Of bolts and bars impervious to the light,
And stood before his train confess'd in open sight.
For since thus wondrously he pass'd, 'tis plain,
One single place two bodies did contain.
And sure the same Omnipotence as well
Can make one body in more places dwell.
Let reason, then, at her own quarry fly,
But how can finite grasp infinity?
'Tis urged again, that faith did first commence
By miracles, which are appeals to sense,
And thence concluded, that our sense must be
The motive still of credibility.
For latter ages must on former wait,
And what began belief must propagate.
But winnow well this thought, and you shall find
'Tis light as chaff that flies before the wind.
Were all those wonders wrought by power divine,
As means or ends of some more deep design?
Most sure as means, whose end was this alone,
To prove the Godhead of the Eternal Son.
God thus asserted, man is to believe
Beyond what sense and reason can conceive,
And for mysterious things of faith rely
On the proponent, Heaven's authority.
If, then, our faith we for our guide admit,
Vain is the farther search of human wit;
As when the building gains a surer stay,
We take the unuseful scaffolding away.
Reason by sense no more can understand;
The game is play'd into another hand.
Why choose we, then, like bilanders, to creep
Along the coast, and land in view to keep,
When safely we may launch into the deep?
In the same vessel which our Saviour bore,
Himself the pilot, let us leave the shore,
And with a better guide a better world explore.
Could he his Godhead veil with flesh and blood,
And not veil these again to be our food?
His grace in both is equal in extent,
The first affords us life, the second nourishment.
And if he can, why all this frantic pain
To construe what his clearest words contain,
And make a riddle what he made so plain?
To take up half on trust, and half to try,
Name it not faith, but bungling bigotry.
Both knave and fool the merchant we may call,
To pay great sums, and to compound the small:
For who would break with Heaven, and would not break for all?
Rest, then, my soul, from endless anguish freed:
Nor sciences thy guide, nor sense thy creed.
Faith is the best insurer of thy bliss;
The bank above must fail before the venture miss.
But heaven and heaven-born faith are far from thee,
Thou first apostate to divinity.
Unkennell'd range in thy Polonian plains;
A fiercer foe the insatiate Wolf remains.
Too boastful Britain, please thyself no more,
That beasts of prey are banish'd from thy shore:
The Bear, the Boar, and every savage name,
Wild in effect, though in appearance tame,
Lay waste thy woods, destroy thy blissful bower,
And, muzzled though they seem, the mutes devour.
More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race
Appear with belly gaunt and famish'd face:
Never was so deform'd a beast of grace.
His ragged tail betwixt his legs he wears,
Close clapp'd for shame; but his rough crest he rears,
And pricks up his predestinating ears.
His wild disorder'd walk, his haggard eyes,
Did all the bestial citizens surprise.
Though fear'd and hated, yet he ruled awhile,
As captain or companion of the spoil.
Full many a year his hateful head had been
For tribute paid, nor since in Cambria seen:
The last of all the litter 'scaped by chance,
And from Geneva first infested France.
Some authors thus his pedigree will trace,
But others write him of an upstart race:
Because of Wickliff's brood no mark he brings,
But his innate antipathy to kings.
These last deduce him from th' Helvetian kind,
Who near the Leman lake his consort lined:
That fiery Zuinglius first th' affection bred,
And meagre Calvin bless'd the nuptial bed.
In Israel some believe him whelp'd long since,
When the proud Sanhedrim oppress'd the prince;
Or, since he will be Jew, derive him higher,
When Corah with his brethren did conspire
From Moses' hand the sovereign sway to wrest,
And Aaron of his ephod to divest:
Till opening earth made way for all to pass,
And could not bear the burden of a class.
The Fox and he came shuffled in the dark,
If ever they were stow'd in Noah's ark:
Perhaps not made; for all their barking train
The Dog (a common species) will contain.
And some wild curs, who from their masters ran,
Abhorring the supremacy of man,
In woods and caves the rebel race began.
O happy pair, how well have you increased!
What ills in Church and State have you redress'd!
With teeth untried, and rudiments of claws,
Your first essay was on your native laws:
Those having torn with ease, and trampled down,
Your fangs you fasten'd on the mitred crown,
And freed from God and monarchy your town.
What though your native kennel still be small,
Bounded betwixt a puddle and a wall;
Yet your victorious colonies are sent
Where the north ocean girds the continent.
Quicken'd with fire below, your monsters breed
In fenny Holland, and in fruitful Tweed:
And, like the first, the last affects to be
Drawn to the dregs of a democracy.
As, where in fields the fairy rounds are seen,
A rank, sour herbage rises on the green;
So, springing where those midnight elves advance,
Rebellion prints the footsteps of the dance.
Such are their doctrines, such contempt they show
To Heaven above and to their prince below,
As none but traitors and blasphemers know.
God, like the tyrant of the skies, is placed,
And kings, like slaves, beneath the crowd debased.
So fulsome is their food, that flocks refuse
To bite, and only dogs for physic use.
As, where the lightning runs along the ground,
No husbandry can heal the blasting wound;
Nor bladed grass, nor bearded corn succeeds,
But scales of scurf and putrefaction breeds:
Such wars, such waste, such fiery tracks of dearth
Their zeal has left, and such a teemless earth,
But, as the poisons of the deadliest kind
Are to their own unhappy coasts confined;
As only Indian shades of sight deprive,
And magic plants will but in Colchos thrive;
So Presbytery and pestilential zeal
Can only nourish in a commonweal.
From Celtic woods is chased the wolfish crew;
But ah! some pity even to brutes is due:
Their native walks methinks they might enjoy,
Curb'd of their native malice to destroy.
Of all the tyrannies on human kind,
The worst is that which persecutes the mind.
Let us but weigh at what offence we strike;
'Tis but because we cannot think alike.
In punishing of this, we overthrow
The laws of nations and of nature too.
Beasts are the subjects of tyrannic sway,
Where still the stronger on the weaker prey.
Man only of a softer mould is made,
Not for his fellows' ruin, but their aid:
Created kind, beneficent, and free,
The noble image of the Deity.
One portion of informing fire was given
To brutes, the inferior family of heaven:
The Smith Divine, as with a careless beat,
Struck out the mute creation at a heat:
But when arrived at last to human race,
The Godhead took a deep-considering space;
And to distinguish man from all the rest,
Unlock'd the sacred treasures of his breast;
And mercy mix'd with reason did impart,
One to his head, the other to his heart:
Reason to rule, and mercy to forgive;
The first is law, the last prerogative.
And like his mind his outward form appear'd,
When, issuing naked, to the wondering herd,
He charm'd their eyes; and, for they loved, they fear'd:
Not arm'd with horns of arbitrary might,
Or claws to seize their furry spoils in fight,
Or with increase of feet to o'ertake them in their flight:
Of easy shape, and pliant every way;
Confessing still the softness of his clay,
And kind as kings upon their coronation day:
With open hands, and with extended space
Of arms, to satisfy a large embrace.
Thus kneaded up with milk, the new-made man
His kingdom o'er his kindred world began:
Till knowledge misapplied, misunderstood,
And pride of empire, sour'd his balmy blood.
Then, first rebelling, his own stamp he coins;
The murderer Cain was latent in his loins:
And blood began its first and loudest cry,
For differing worship of the Deity.
Thus persecution rose, and further space
Produced the mighty hunter of his race.
Not so the blessed Pan his flock increased,
Content to fold them from the famish'd beast:
Mild were his laws; the Sheep and harmless Hind
Were never of the persecuting kind.
Such pity now the pious pastor shows,
Such mercy from the British Lion flows,
That both provide protection from their foes.
O happy regions, Italy and Spain,
Which never did those monsters entertain!
The Wolf, the Bear, the Boar, can there advance
No native claim of just inheritance.
And self-preserving laws, severe in show,
May guard their fences from the invading foe.
Where birth has placed them, let them safely share
The common benefit of vital air.
Themselves unharmful, let them live unharm'd;
Their jaws disabled, and their claws disarm'd:
Here, only in nocturnal howlings bold,
They dare not seize the hind, nor leap the fold.
More powerful, and as vigilant as they,
The Lion awfully forbids the prey.
Their rage repress'd, though pinch'd with famine sore,
They stand aloof, and tremble at his roar:
Much is their hunger, but their fear is more.
These are the chief: to number o'er the rest,
And stand, like Adam, naming every beast,
Were weary work; nor will the muse describe
A slimy-born and sun-begotten tribe;
Who far from steeples and their sacred sound,
In fields their sullen conventicles found.
These gross, half-animated lumps I leave;
Nor can I think what thoughts they can conceive.
But if they think at all, 'tis sure no higher
Than matter, put in motion, may aspire:
Souls that can scarce ferment their mass of clay;
So drossy, so divisible are they,
As would but serve pure bodies for allay:
Such souls as shards produce, such beetle things
As only buzz to heaven with evening wings;
Strike in the dark, offending but by chance,
Such are the blindfold blows of ignorance.
They know not beings, and but hate a name;
To them the Hind and Panther are the same.
The Panther sure the noblest, next the Hind,
And fairest creature of the spotted kind;
Oh, could her inborn stains be wash'd away,
She were too good to be a beast of prey!
How can I praise, or blame, and not offend,
Or how divide the frailty from the friend?
Her faults and virtues lie so mix'd, that she
Nor wholly stands condemn'd, nor wholly free.
Then, like her injured Lion, let me speak;
He cannot bend her, and he would not break.
Unkind already, and estranged in part,
The Wolf begins to share her wandering heart.
Though unpolluted yet with actual ill,
She half commits, who sins but in her will.
If, as our dreaming Platonists report,
There could be spirits of a middle sort,
Too black for heaven, and yet too white for hell,
Who just dropt half way down, nor lower fell;
So poised, so gently she descends from high,
It seems a soft dismission from the sky.
Her house not ancient, whatsoe'er pretence
Her clergy heralds make in her defence.
A second century not half-way run,
Since the new honours of her blood begun.
A Lion old, obscene, and furious made
By lust, compress'd her mother in a shade;
Then, by a left-hand marriage, weds the dame,
Covering adultery with a specious name:
So Schism begot; and Sacrilege and she,
A well match'd pair, got graceless Heresy.
God's and king's rebels have the same good cause,
To trample down divine and human laws:
Both would be call'd reformers, and their hate
Alike destructive both to Church and State:
The fruit proclaims the plant; a lawless prince
By luxury reform'd incontinence;
By ruins, charity; by riots, abstinence.
Confessions, fasts, and penance set aside,
Oh, with what ease we follow such a guide,
Where souls are starved, and senses gratified!
Where marriage pleasures midnight prayers supply,
And matin bells, a melancholy cry,
Are tuned to merrier notes, Increase and multiply.
Religion shows a rosy-colour'd face;
Not batter'd out with drudging works of grace:
A down-hill reformation rolls apace.
What flesh and blood would crowd the narrow gate,
Or, till they waste their pamper'd paunches, wait?
All would be happy at the cheapest rate.
Though our lean faith these rigid laws has given,
The full-fed Mussulman goes fat to heaven;
For his Arabian prophet with delights
Of sense allured his eastern proselytes.
The jolly Luther, reading him, began
To interpret Scriptures by his Alcoran;
To grub the thorns beneath our tender feet,
And make the paths of Paradise more sweet;
Bethought him of a wife ere half way gone,
For 'twas uneasy travelling alone;
And, in this masquerade of mirth and love,
Mistook the bliss of heaven for Bacchanals above.
Sure he presumed of praise, who came to stock
The ethereal pastures with so fair a flock,
Burnish'd, and battening on their food, to show
Their diligence of careful herds below.
Our Panther, though like these she changed her head,
Yet, as the mistress of a monarch's bed,
Her front erect with majesty she bore,
The crosier wielded, and the mitre wore.
Her upper part of decent discipline
Show'd affectation of an ancient line;
And Fathers, Councils, Church, and Church's head,
Were on her reverend phylacteries read.
But what disgraced and disavow'd the rest,
Was Calvin's brand, that stigmatized the beast.
Thus, like a creature of a double kind,
In her own labyrinth she lives confined.
To foreign lands no sound of her is come,
Humbly content to be despised at home.
Such is her faith, where good cannot be had,
At least she leaves the refuse of the bad:
Nice in her choice of ill, though not of best,
And least deform'd, because reform'd the least.
In doubtful points betwixt her differing friends,
Where one for substance, one for sign contends,
Their contradicting terms she strives to join;
Sign shall be substance, substance shall be sign.
A real presence all her sons allow,
And yet 'tis flat idolatry to bow,
Because the Godhead's there they know not how.
Her novices are taught that bread and wine
Are but the visible and outward sign,
Received by those who in communion join.
But the inward grace, or the thing signified,
His blood and body, who to save us died;
The faithful this thing signified receive:
What is't those faithful then partake or leave?
For what is signified and understood,
Is, by her own confession, flesh and blood.
Then, by the same acknowledgment, we know
They take the sign, and take the substance too.
The literal sense is hard to flesh and blood,
But nonsense never can be understood.
Her wild belief on every wave is toss'd;
But sure no Church can better morals boast:
True to her king her principles are found;
O that her practice were but half so sound!
Steadfast in various turns of state she stood,
And seal'd her vow'd affection with her blood:
Nor will I meanly tax her constancy,
That interest or obligement made the tie
Bound to the fate of murder'd monarchy.
Before the sounding axe so falls the vine,
Whose tender branches round the poplar twine.
She chose her ruin, and resign'd her life,
In death undaunted as an Indian wife:
A rare example! but some souls we see
Grow hard, and stiffen with adversity:
Yet these by fortune's favours are undone;
Resolved into a baser form they run,
And bore the wind, but cannot bear the sun.
Let this be nature's frailty, or her fate,
Or Isgrim's counsel, her new-chosen mate;
Still she's the fairest of the fallen crew,
No mother more indulgent, but the true.
Fierce to her foes, yet fears her force to try,
Because she wants innate authority;
For how can she constrain them to obey,
Who has herself cast off the lawful sway?
Rebellion equals all, and those who toil
In common theft, will share the common spoil.
Let her produce the title and the right
Against her old superiors first to fight;
If she reform by text, even that's as plain
For her own rebels to reform again.
As long as words a different sense will bear,
And each may be his own interpreter,
Our airy faith will no foundation find:
The word's a weathercock for every wind:
The Bear, the Fox, the Wolf, by turns prevail;
The most in power supplies the present gale.
The wretched Panther cries aloud for aid
To Church and Councils, whom she first betray'd;
No help from Fathers or Tradition's train:
Those ancient guides she taught us to disdain,
And, by that Scripture, which she once abused
To reformation, stands herself accused.
What bills for breach of laws can she prefer,
Expounding which she owns herself may err?
And, after all her winding ways are tried,
If doubts arise, she slips herself aside,
And leaves the private conscience for the guide.
If then that conscience set the offender free,
It bars her claim to Church authority.
How can she censure, or what crime pretend,
But Scripture may be construed to defend?
Even those, whom for rebellion she transmits
To civil power, her doctrine first acquits;
Because no disobedience can ensue,
Where no submission to a judge is due;
Each judging for himself, by her consent,
Whom thus absolved she sends to punishment.
Suppose the magistrate revenge her cause,
'Tis only for transgressing human laws.
How answering to its end a Church is made,
Whose power is but to counsel and persuade?
Oh, solid rock, on which secure she stands!
Eternal house, not built with mortal hands!
Oh, sure defence against the infernal gate,--
A patent during pleasure of the state!
Thus is the Panther neither loved nor fear'd,
A mere mock queen of a divided herd;
Whom soon by lawful power she might control,
Herself a part submitted to the whole.
Then, as the moon who first receives the light
By which she makes our nether regions bright,
So might she shine, reflecting from afar
The rays she borrow'd from a better star;
Big with the beams which from her mother flow,
And reigning o'er the rising tides below:
Now, mixing with a savage crowd, she goes,
And meanly flatters her inveterate foes;
Ruled while she rules, and losing every hour
Her wretched remnants of precarious power.
One evening, while the cooler shade she sought,
Revolving many a melancholy thought,
Alone she walk'd, and look'd around in vain,
With rueful visage, for her vanish'd train:
None of her sylvan subjects made their court;
Levées and couchées pass'd without resort.
So hardly can usurpers manage well
Those whom they first instructed to rebel.
More liberty begets desire of more;
The hunger still increases with the store.
Without respect they brush'd along the wood,
Each in his clan, and, fill'd with loathsome food,
Ask'd no permission to the neighbouring flood.
The Panther, full of inward discontent,
Since they would go, before them wisely went;
Supplying want of power by drinking first,
As if she gave them leave to quench their thirst.
Among the rest, the Hind, with fearful face,
Beheld from far the common watering place,
Nor durst approach; till, with an awful roar,
The sovereign Lion bade her fear no more.
Encouraged thus she brought her younglings nigh,
Watching the motions of her patron's eye,
And drank a sober draught; the rest amazed
Stood mutely still, and on the stranger gazed;
Survey'd her part by part, and sought to find
The ten-horn'd monster in the harmless Hind,
Such as the Wolf and Panther had design'd.
They thought at first they dream'd; for 'twas offence
With them to question certitude of sense,
Their guide in faith: but nearer when they drew,
And had the faultless object full in view,
Lord, how they all admired her heavenly hue!
Some, who before her fellowship disdain'd,
Scarce, and but scarce, from in-born rage restrain'd,
Now frisk'd about her, and old kindred feign'd.
Whether for love or interest, every sect
Of all the savage nation show'd respect.
The viceroy Panther could not awe the herd;
The more the company, the less they fear'd.
The surly Wolf with secret envy burst,
Yet could not howl; (the Hind had seen him first:)
But what he durst not speak the Panther durst.
For when the herd, sufficed, did late repair,
To ferny heaths, and to their forest lair,
She made a mannerly excuse to stay,
Proffering the Hind to wait her half the way:
That, since the sky was clear, an hour of talk
Might help her to beguile the tedious walk.
With much good-will the motion was embraced,
To chat a while on their adventures pass'd:
Nor had the grateful Hind so soon forgot
Her friend and fellow-sufferer in the Plot.
Yet, wondering how of late she grew estranged,
Her forehead cloudy, and her countenance changed,
She thought this hour the occasion would present
To learn her secret cause of discontent,
Which well she hoped might be with ease redress'd,
Considering her a well-bred civil beast,
And more a gentlewoman than the rest.
After some common talk what rumours ran,
The lady of the spotted muff began.
Dame, said the Panther, times are mended well,
Since late among the Philistines you fell.
The toils were pitch'd, a spacious tract of ground
With expert huntsmen was encompass'd round;
The enclosure narrow'd; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour.
'Tis true, the younger Lion 'scaped the snare,
But all your priestly Calves lay struggling there,
As sacrifices on their altar laid;
While you, their careful mother, wisely fled,
Not trusting destiny to save your head;
For, whate'er promises you have applied
To your unfailing Church, the surer side
Is four fair legs in danger to provide.
And whate'er tales of Peter's chair you tell,
Yet, saving reverence of the miracle,
The better luck was yours to 'scape so well.
As I remember, said the sober Hind,
Those toils were for your own dear self design'd,
As well as me, and with the self-same throw,
To catch the quarry and the vermin too.
(Forgive the slanderous tongues that call'd you so.)
Howe'er you take it now, the common cry
Then ran you down for your rank loyalty.
Besides, in Popery they thought you nursed,
As evil tongues will ever speak the worst,
Because some forms, and ceremonies some
You kept, and stood in the main question dumb.
Dumb you were born indeed; but thinking long
The Test it seems at last has loosed your tongue.
And to explain what your forefathers meant,
By real presence in the sacrament,
After long fencing push'd against the wall.
Your salvo comes, that he's not there at all:
There changed your faith, and what may change may fall.
Who can believe what varies every day,
Nor ever was, nor will be at a stay?
Tortures may force the tongue untruths to tell,
And I ne'er own'd myself infallible,
Replied the Panther: grant such presence were,
Yet in your sense I never own'd it there.
A real virtue we by faith receive,
And that we in the sacrament believe.
Then, said the Hind, as you the matter state,
Not only Jesuits can equivocate;
For real, as you now the word expound,
From solid substance dwindles to a sound.
Methinks an Æsop's fable you repeat;
You know who took the shadow for the meat:
Your Church's substance thus you change at will,
And yet retain your former figure still.
I freely grant you spoke to save your life;
For then you lay beneath the butcher's knife.
Long time you fought, redoubled battery bore,
But, after all, against yourself you swore;
Your former self: for every hour your form
Is chopp'd and changed, like winds before a storm.
Thus fear and interest will prevail with some;
For all have not the gift of martyrdom.
The Panther grinn'd at this, and thus replied:
That men may err was never yet denied.
But, if that common principle be true,
The canon, dame, is levell'd full at you.
But, shunning long disputes, I fain would see
That wondrous wight Infallibility.
Is he from Heaven, this mighty champion, come;
Or lodged below in subterranean Rome?
First, seat him somewhere, and derive his race,
Or else conclude that nothing has no place.
Suppose (though I disown it), said the Hind,
The certain mansion were not yet assign'd;
The doubtful residence no proof can bring
Against the plain existence of the thing.
Because philosophers may disagree
If sight by emission or reception be,
Shall it be thence inferr'd, I do not see?
But you require an answer positive,
Which yet, when I demand, you dare not give;
For fallacies in universals live.
I then affirm that this unfailing guide
In Pope and General Councils must reside;
Both lawful, both combined: what one decrees
By numerous votes, the other ratifies:
On this undoubted sense the Church relies.
'Tis true, some doctors in a scantier space,
I mean, in each apart, contract the place.
Some, who to greater length extend the line,
The Church's after-acceptation join.
This last circumference appears too wide;
The Church diffused is by the Council tied;
As members by their representatives
Obliged to laws which Prince and Senate gives.
Thus some contract, and some enlarge the space:
In Pope and Council, who denies the place,
Assisted from above with God's unfailing grace?
Those canons all the needful points contain;
Their sense so obvious, and their words so plain,
That no disputes about the doubtful text
Have hitherto the labouring world perplex'd.
If any should in after-times appear,
New Councils must be call'd, to make the meaning clear:
Because in them the power supreme resides;
And all the promises are to the guides.
This may be taught with sound and safe defence;
But mark how sandy is your own pretence,
Who, setting Councils, Pope, and Church aside,
Are every man his own presuming guide.
The Sacred Books, you say, are full and plain.
And every needful point of truth contain:
All who can read interpreters may be:
Thus, though your several Churches disagree,
Yet every saint has to himself alone
The secret of this philosophic stone.
These principles your jarring sects unite,
When differing doctors and disciples fight.
Though Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, holy chiefs,
Have made a battle royal of beliefs;
Or, like wild horses, several ways have whirl'd
The tortured text about the Christian world;
Each Jehu lashing on with furious force,
That Turk or Jew could not have used it worse;
No matter what dissension leaders make,
Where every private man may save a stake:
Ruled by the Scripture and his own advice,
Each has a blind by-path to Paradise;
Where, driving in a circle, slow or fast,
Opposing sects are sure to meet at last.
A wondrous charity you have in store
For all reform'd to pass the narrow door:
So much, that Mahomet had scarcely more.
For he, kind prophet, was for damning none;
But Christ and Moses were to save their own:
Himself was to secure his chosen race,
Though reason good for Turks to take the place,
And he allow'd to be the better man,
In virtue of his holier Alcoran.
True, said the Panther, I shall ne'er deny
My brethren may be saved as well as I:
Though Huguenots condemn our ordination,
Succession, ministerial vocation;
And Luther, more mistaking what he read,
Misjoins the sacred body with the bread:
Yet, lady, still remember, I maintain,
The Word in needful points is only plain.
Needless, or needful, I not now contend,
For still you have a loop-hole for a friend;
Rejoin'd the matron: but the rule you lay
Has led whole flocks, and leads them still astray,
In weighty points, and full damnation's way.
For did not Arius first, Socinus now,
The Son's Eternal Godhead disavow?
And did not these by gospel texts alone
Condemn our doctrine, and maintain their own?
Have not all heretics the same pretence
To plead the Scriptures in their own defence?
How did the Nicene Council then decide
That strong debate? was it by Scripture tried?
No, sure; to that the rebel would not yield;
Squadrons of texts he marshall'd in the field:
That was but civil war, an equal set,
Where piles with piles, and eagles eagles met.
With texts point-blank and plain he faced the foe.
And did not Satan tempt our Saviour so?
The good old bishops took a simpler way;
Each ask'd but what he heard his father say,
Or how he was instructed in his youth,
And by tradition's force upheld the truth.
The Panther smiled at this; and when, said she,
Were those first Councils disallow'd by me?
Or where did I at sure Tradition strike,
Provided still it were apostolic?
Friend, said the Hind, you quit your former ground,
Where all your faith you did on Scripture found:
Now 'tis Tradition join'd with Holy Writ;
But thus your memory betrays your wit.
No, said the Panther, for in that I view,
When your tradition's forged, and when 'tis true.
I set them by the rule, and, as they square,
Or deviate from, undoubted doctrine there,
This oral fiction, that old faith declare.
Hind: The Council steer'd, it seems, a different course;
They tried the Scripture by Tradition's force:
But you Tradition by the Scripture try;
Pursued by sects, from this to that you fly,
Nor dare on one foundation to rely.
The Word is then deposed, and in this view,
You rule the Scripture, not the Scripture you.
Thus said the dame, and, smiling, thus pursued:
I see Tradition then is disallow'd,
When not evinced by Scripture to be true,
And Scripture, as interpreted by you.
But here you tread upon unfaithful ground;
Unless you could infallibly expound:
Which you reject as odious Popery,
And throw that doctrine back with scorn on me.
Suppose we on things traditive divide,
And both appeal to Scripture to decide;
By various texts we both uphold our claim,
Nay, often ground our titles on the same:
After long labour lost, and time's expense,
Both grant the words, and quarrel for the sense.
Thus all disputes for ever must depend;
For no dumb rule can controversies end.
Thus, when you said, Tradition must be tried
By Sacred Writ, whose sense yourselves decide,
You said no more, but that yourselves must be
The judges of the Scripture sense, not we.
Against our Church-Tradition you declare,
And yet your clerks would sit in Moses' chair;
At least 'tis proved against your argument,
The rule is far from plain, where all dissent.
If not by Scriptures, how can we be sure,
Replied the Panther, what Tradition's pure?
For you may palm upon us new for old:
All, as they say, that glitters, is not gold.
How but by following her, replied the dame,
To whom derived from sire to son they came;
Where every age does on another move,
And trusts no farther than the next above;
Where all the rounds like Jacob's ladder rise,
The lowest hid in earth, the topmost in the skies.
Sternly the savage did her answer mark,
Her glowing eye-balls glittering in the dark,
And said but this: Since lucre was your trade,
Succeeding times such dreadful gaps have made,
'Tis dangerous climbing: to your sons and you
I leave the ladder, and its omen too.
Hind: The Panther's breath was ever famed for sweet;
But from the Wolf such wishes oft I meet:
You learn'd this language from the Blatant Beast,
Or rather did not speak, but were possess'd.
As for your answer, 'tis but barely urged:
You must evince Tradition to be forged;
Produce plain proofs: unblemish'd authors use
As ancient as those ages they accuse;
'Till when 'tis not sufficient to defame:
An old possession stands, 'till elder quits the claim.
Then for our interest, which is named alone
To load with envy, we retort your own,
For when Traditions in your faces fly,
Resolving not to yield, you must decry.
As when the cause goes hard, the guilty man
Excepts, and thins his jury all he can;
So when you stand of other aid bereft,
You to the Twelve Apostles would be left.
Your friend the Wolf did with more craft provide
To set those toys, Traditions, quite aside;
And Fathers too, unless when, reason spent,
He cites them but sometimes for ornament.
But, madam Panther, you, though more sincere,
Are not so wise as your adulterer:
The private spirit is a better blind,
Than all the dodging tricks your authors find.
For they, who left the Scripture to the crowd,
Each for his own peculiar judge allow'd;
The way to please them was to make them proud.
Thus, with full sails, they ran upon the shelf:
Who could suspect a cozenage from himself?
On his own reason safer 'tis to stand,
Than be deceived and damn'd at second-hand.
But you, who Fathers and Traditions take,
And garble some, and some you quite forsake,
Pretending Church-authority to fix,
And yet some grains of private spirit mix,
Are like a mule, made up of differing seed,
And that's the reason why you never breed;
At least not propagate your kind abroad,
For home dissenters are by statutes awed.
And yet they grow upon you every day,
While you, to speak the best, are at a stay,
For sects, that are extremes, abhor a middle way.
Like tricks of state, to stop a raging flood,
Or mollify a mad-brain'd senate's mood:
Of all expedients never one was good.
Well may they argue, nor can you deny,
If we must fix on Church authority,
Best on the best, the fountain, not the flood;
That must be better still, if this be good.
Shall she command who has herself rebell'd?
Is Antichrist by Antichrist expell'd?
Did we a lawful tyranny displace,
To set aloft a bastard of the race?
Why all these wars to win the Book, if we
Must not interpret for ourselves, but she?
Either be wholly slaves, or wholly free.
For purging fires Traditions must not fight;
But they must prove Episcopacy's right.
Thus those led horses are from service freed;
You never mount them but in time of need.
Like mercenaries, hired for home defence,
They will not serve against their native prince.
Against domestic foes of hierarchy
These are drawn forth, to make fanatics fly;
But, when they see their countrymen at hand,
Marching against them under Church-command,
Straight they forsake their colours, and disband.
Thus she, nor could the Panther well enlarge
With weak defence against so strong a charge;
But said: For what did Christ his Word provide,
If still his Church must want a living guide?
And if all saving doctrines are not there,
Or sacred penmen could not make them clear,
From after ages we should hope in vain
For truths, which men inspired could not explain.
Before the Word was written, said the Hind,
Our Saviour preach'd his faith to human kind:
From his apostles the first age received
Eternal truth, and what they taught believed.
Thus by Tradition faith was planted first;
Succeeding flocks succeeding pastors nursed.
This was the way our wise Redeemer chose
(Who sure could all things for the best dispose),
To fence his fold from their encroaching foes.
He could have writ himself, but well foresaw
The event would be like that of Moses' law;
Some difference would arise, some doubts remain,
Like those which yet the jarring Jews maintain.
No written laws can be so plain, so pure,
But wit may gloss, and malice may obscure;
Not those indited by his first command,
A prophet graved the text, an angel held his hand.
Thus faith was ere the written word appear'd,
And men believed not what they read, but heard.
But since the apostles could not be confined
To these, or those, but severally design'd
Their large commission round the world to blow,
To spread their faith, they spread their labours too.
Yet still their absent flock their pains did share;
They hearken'd still, for love produces care,
And, as mistakes arose, or discords fell,
Or bold seducers taught them to rebel,
As charity grew cold, or faction hot,
Or long neglect their lessons had forgot,
For all their wants they wisely did provide,
And preaching by epistles was supplied:
So great physicians cannot all attend,
But some they visit, and to some they send.
Yet all those letters were not writ to all;
Nor first intended but occasional,
Their absent sermons; nor if they contain
All needful doctrines, are those doctrines plain.
Clearness by frequent preaching must be wrought:
They writ but seldom, but they daily taught.
And what one saint has said of holy Paul,
"He darkly writ," is true, applied to all.
For this obscurity could Heaven provide
More prudently than by a living guide,
As doubts arose, the difference to decide?
A guide was therefore needful, therefore made;
And, if appointed, sure to be obey'd.
Thus, with due reverence to the Apostle's writ,
By which my sons are taught, to which submit;
I think those truths their sacred works contain,
The Church alone can certainly explain;
That following ages, leaning on the past,
May rest upon the Primitive at last.
Nor would I thence the Word no rule infer,
But none without the Church-interpreter.
Because, as I have urged before, 'tis mute,
And is itself the subject of dispute.
But what the Apostles their successors taught,
They to the next, from them to us is brought,
The undoubted sense which is in Scripture sought.
From hence the Church is arm'd, when errors rise,
To stop their entrance, and prevent surprise;
And, safe entrench'd within, her foes without defies.
By these all festering sores her Councils heal,
Which time or has disclosed, or shall reveal;
For discord cannot end without a last appeal.
Nor can a Council national decide,
But with subordination to her guide;
(I wish the cause were on that issue tried.)
Much less the Scripture; for suppose debate
Betwixt pretenders to a fair estate,
Bequeath'd by some legator's last intent;
(Such is our dying Saviour's Testament:)
The will is proved, is open'd, and is read;
The doubtful heirs their differing titles plead:
All vouch the words their interest to maintain,
And each pretends by those his cause is plain.
Shall then the Testament award the right?
No, that's the Hungary for which they fight;
The field of battle, subject of debate;
The thing contended for, the fair estate.
The sense is intricate, 'tis only clear
What vowels and what consonants are there.
Therefore 'tis plain, its meaning must be tried
Before some judge appointed to decide.
Suppose, the fair apostate said, I grant,
The faithful flock some living guide should want,
Your arguments an endless chase pursue;
Produce this vaunted leader to our view,
This mighty Moses of the chosen crew.
The dame, who saw her fainting foe retired,
With force renew'd, to victory aspired;
And, looking upward to her kindred sky,
As once our Saviour own'd his Deity,
Pronounced his words:--"She whom ye seek am I,"
Nor less amazed this voice the Panther heard,
Than were those Jews to hear a God declared.
Then thus the matron modestly renew'd:
Let all your prophets and their sects be view'd,
And see to which of them yourselves think fit
The conduct of your conscience to submit:
Each proselyte would vote his doctor best,
With absolute exclusion to the rest:
Thus would your Polish diet disagree,
And end, as it began, in anarchy:
Yourself the fairest for election stand,
Because you seem crown-general of the land:
But soon against your superstitious lawn
Some Presbyterian sabre would be drawn:
In your establish'd laws of sovereignty
The rest some fundamental flaw would see,
And call rebellion gospel-liberty.
To Church-decrees your articles require
Submission modified, if not entire.
Homage denied, to censures you proceed:
But when Curtana will not do the deed.
You lay that pointless clergy-weapon by,
And to the laws, your sword of justice, fly.
Now this your sects the more unkindly take
(Those prying varlets hit the blots you make),
Because some ancient friends of yours declare,
Your only rule of faith the Scriptures are,
Interpreted by men of judgment sound,
Which every sect will for themselves expound;
Nor think less reverence to their doctors due
For sound interpretation, than to you.
If then, by able heads, are understood
Your brother prophets, who reform'd abroad;
Those able heads expound a wiser way,
That their own sheep their shepherd should obey.
But if you mean yourselves are only sound,
That doctrine turns the Reformation round,
And all the rest are false reformers found;
Because in sundry points you stand alone,
Not in communion join'd with any one;
And therefore must be all the Church, or none.
Then, till you have agreed whose judge is best,
Against this forced submission they protest:
While sound and sound a different sense explains,
Both play at hardhead till they break their brains;
And from their chairs each other's force defy,
While unregarded thunders vainly fly.
I pass the rest, because your Church alone
Of all usurpers best could fill the throne.
But neither you, nor any sect beside,
For this high office can be qualified,
With necessary gifts required in such a guide.
For that which must direct the whole must be
Bound in one bond of faith and unity:
But all your several Churches disagree.
The consubstantiating Church and priest
Refuse communion to the Calvinist:
The French reform'd from preaching you restrain,
Because you judge their ordination vain;
And so they judge of yours, but donors must ordain.
In short, in doctrine, or in discipline,
Not one reform'd can with another join:
But all from each, as from damnation, fly;
No union they pretend, but in Non-Popery.
Nor, should their members in a Synod meet,
Could any Church presume to mount the seat,
Above the rest, their discords to decide;
None would obey, but each would be the guide:
And face to face dissensions would increase;
For only distance now preserves the peace.
All in their turns accusers, and accused:
Babel was never half so much confused:
What one can plead, the rest can plead as well;
For amongst equals lies no last appeal,
And all confess themselves are fallible.
Now since you grant some necessary guide,
All who can err are justly laid aside:
Because a trust so sacred to confer
Shows want of such a sure interpreter;
And how can he be needful who can err?
Then, granting that unerring guide we want,
That such there is you stand obliged to grant:
Our Saviour else were wanting to supply
Our needs, and obviate that necessity.
It then remains, the Church can only be
The guide, which owns unfailing certainty;
Or else you slip your hold, and change your side,
Relapsing from a necessary guide.
But this annex'd condition of the crown,
Immunity from errors, you disown;
Here then you shrink, and lay your weak pretensions down.
For petty royalties you raise debate;
But this unfailing universal state
You shun; nor dare succeed to such a glorious weight;
And for that cause those promises detest
With which our Saviour did his Church invest;
But strive to evade, and fear to find them true,
As conscious they were never meant to you:
All which the Mother Church asserts her own,
And with unrivall'd claim ascends the throne.
So, when of old the Almighty Father sate
In council, to redeem our ruin'd state,
Millions of millions, at a distance round,
Silent the sacred consistory crown'd,
To hear what mercy, mix'd with justice, could propound:
All prompt, with eager pity, to fulfil
The full extent of their Creator's will.
But when the stern conditions were declared,
A mournful whisper through the host was heard,
And the whole hierarchy, with heads hung down,
Submissively declined the ponderous proffer'd crown.
Then, not till then, the Eternal Son from high
Rose in the strength of all the Deity:
Stood forth to accept the terms, and underwent
A weight which all the frame of heaven had bent.
Nor he himself could bear, but as Omnipotent.
Now, to remove the least remaining doubt,
That even the blear-eyed sects may find her out,
Behold what heavenly rays adorn her brows,
What from his wardrobe her beloved allows
To deck the wedding-day of