Epistle To A Friend, On The Divinity Of Our Saviour.

A poem by William Hayley

Inconcussa tenens dubio vestigia mundo..

1815.

Epistle.

Dear Disputant! whose mind would boldly soar,
And all theology's domain explore!
I love the candid fervency of soul,
That scorns a dogmatist's austere controul;
Let liberal scholars, as they surely ought,
Claim, and allow, a latitude of thought!
As friends I honour, with a love benign,
Many, whose creeds may vary far from mine:
Secure from error I no mortal deem;
But all, who truly seek for truth, esteem.
Yet with a mild regret, and kind concern
I see temerity's ambition burn,
When zeal, self-blinded in a mental mist,
Denies, that hallow'd mysteries exist;
And deems, that reason, which no fears appall,
Has self-sufficiency to clear them all:
Tis reas'ning pride, not reason, just, and sore.
Which in religion finds no point obscure;
Which, measuring Godhead with an earthly line,
Would rob the Saviour of his rights divine.
There are, who call Him, by their dreams beguil'd,
Mere man; of mortal geniture the child!
Tho' sanction'd, by his Sire's almighty breath,
His Son! a sovereign o'er life, and death!
'Tis not for mortals, in their transient hour,
To pierce the secrets of primordial power;
Or guess, how God, on his eternal throne,
To filial spirit could impart his own:
But how can earth deny, by truth unblam'd,
Divinity, that Heaven itself proclaim'd.
Reason opposes pride's degrading plan.
To sink the Saviour to a simple man:
Were He no more, could He, so born, presume
With Heaven to mediate for all nature's doom?
No! for, so born, Himself must then require
A mediator with th' eternal Sire:
Disclaim his Godhead, you at once imply
His deeds are doubtful, and his word a lie.
If not a God, most guilty of mankind,
His doctrine tends the human race to blind.
Surpassing e'en the fiend, who caus'd our fall,
By sharing worship with the Sire of all!
O ye! whose reas'ning pride can so mistake
The truths, He meekly spoke for mercy's sake!
More humbly grateful, learn ye to rejoice
In all the dictates of his cheering voice!
Who, to console his grief-dejected flock,
Show'd, how their faith is built upon a rock;
And, in the closing of his earthly strife,
Made manifest Himself as Lord of Life!
And tho' to death, the most disgraceful, driven,
Possessing all the powers of earth, and Heaven.
Pure source of light! and safety to the lost,
Without Thee on a sea of darkness tost!
Sovereign of grace, and kindness so sublime,
Thou view'st with pity their ungrateful crime,
Who, while they load Thee with degrading praise,
Would darken in thy crown its heavenly rays.
And O! how truly pitiable are those,
By nature mild, nor truth's intended foes,
Whose strange illusion yet miscalls Thee, man,
Tho' chosen to fulfil redemption's plan!
Who of Thy Godhead want that sacred sense,
That cordial glow of gratitude intense,
Which forms the bliss of their enlighten'd zeal,
Who all the merits of thy mercy feel!
Who hail Thee quitting thy bright throne above,
Sublime example of celestial love!
To clear, for them, a debt, they could not pay,
And change their darkness to eternal day!
How passing sweet to pure devotion's soul,
Are proofs of thy unlimited controul!
While the true Christian's mental eyes survey
Thy heavenly origin, and healing sway.
Only begotten Son of Sire supreme,
Whose quickening bounty was thy vital beam,
Ere nature lived, when, with thy filial aid,
The vast foundation of all worlds was laid!
When the paternal God was pleas'd to see
A blight reflection of Himself in Thee!
The splendour of his glory! form'd to share
His purest power, his providential care,
And, in consummating his gracious will,
At length annihilate all cureless ill!
To faith's pure eyes how ravishingly clear
Signs of her Lord's Divinity appear!
While earth and Heaven invite her to behold
How the fair series of those signs unfold!
A blest Redeemer, and without a trace
Of man's corruption in his ruin'd race,
Announc'd by mercy to our fallen sire,
Soon made that contrite criminal respire:
Age after age, of prophecy the breath.
Softening the horrors in the doom of death,
While nature strove with sin's dark woes to cope,
Shed thro' her lighten'd heart religious hope.
Thro' patriarchal times, in vision clear,
Types of the great Deliverer appear:
At length, when centuries have roll'd away.
And faith stands watching for her promis'd day,
She sees her Saviour from a virgin sprung,
His advent by attending angels song!
And wisdom usher'd by the guiding Star,
Hails Him, with gifts of homage, from afar.
The voice of Heaven proclaims his promis'd birth,
And conscious nature feels her friend on earth.
His uninstructed youth divinely sage,
Transcends the knowledge of experienc'd age:
The weak receive the strength, his will can give,
The dead obedient to his mandate live,
In power as mighty, as in mercy kind,
He dies, the ransom of redeem'd mankind!
Lord of Existence! He expires to prove
His matchless effort of celestial love;
And ratify, while He resigns his breath,
His glorious conquest o'er the gates of death!
A massive tomb receives his sacred corse;
And foes would guard it with a watchful force:
Vain boast of folly's disbelieving rout!
Who thus confirm the Deity, they doubt!
The grave beholds the heavenly victor rise,
And soar triumphant to his native skies.
His troubled servants still to calm and cheer
See Him, in human tenderness appear!
And while the slow of faith He mildly blames,
"My Lord! my God!" his doubt-freed saint exclaims.
Were He not God, and worthy of our trust,
Could He admit such worship from the just?
And bless the conscious of his heavenly right,
Whose faith demands no evidence of sight?
Yet grace divine full evidence has given;
Witness! Thou earth! by his dread sufferings riven!
Witness! Thou speaking firmament above!
When God proclaim'd Him offspring of his love!
Pleas'd to that blessed offspring to impart
Prerogative divine, dominion of the heart!
Exulting angels hail his sovereign sway;
Attest his glory, his commands obey;
And usher Him, whom e'en the demons own
As Earth's Redeemer, to his heavenly throne:
Thence, while mankind receive a second birth,
He ratifies the word, He spoke on earth;
And pleas'd to see his rescued servants live,
He gives them, what the world had not to give;
Internal peace! the duteous mind's repose!
With powers to foil the most malignant foes!
This vital sunshine of enlighten'd hearts,
This to his firm adherents He imparts;
When duly grateful for his kind controul,
They bless his empire o'er the willing soul,
For in his own, as in his Father's name,
He claims their boundless love; a righteous claim!
A claim, in which the proofs of Godhead shine!
Celestial attributes! and grace divine!
Hear how beyond the scope of mortal voice,
He bids his servants in his word rejoice,
Bids them for every good on Him depend!
As dearer far than every earthly friend,
Regard Him, parents, children far above;
And die with transport to secure his love.
Were He mere man, must not such orders seem
Distracted arrogance, an impious dream?
So of men's lives He only might dispose;
From whose divinity their safety flows,
Who left the bosom of His heavenly Sire,
To merit, what none other might acquire,
A sacred right with that dread Sire to plead,
To change the doom, his justice had decreed,
And save the guilty from perdition's storm;
Celestial victim in a human form!
Whose mediation, soft'ning wrath supreme,
Taught nature to revive, in mercy's beam.
Gracious Restorer of a race condemn'd,
Tho' by the thankless tribes revil'd, contemn'd.
Yet gratitude, and truth, who round Thee fly,
With all thy menial angels of the sky,
Viewing thy gifts with rapturous amaze,
Hail thy beneficence with heavenly praise:
All bear eternal witness, that Thou art
Justly a Sovereign in the human heart.
Man cannot yield too much, when, at thy call
To Thee his grateful zeal resigns his all;
Whate'er be may resign, yet more he gains,
While in his heart his blest Redeemer reigns;
By thy kind words he is inform'd aright,
And Thee exulting owns his path, his light!
Whether we ponder, with a mind serene,
The gracious marvels of thy earthly scene,
Or the firm promise to thy servants given,
Just ere they saw Thee re-ascend to Heaven;
Or the fulfilment of thy grand bequest,
The promis'd Comforter of man distrest!
That spirit, which, as man's unfailing friend,
'Twas thine, from thy celestial throne, to send
The Spirit of thy Sire! of truth! and peace!
By whose blest influence base passions cease;
And Christians, worthy of their Lord, combine
In the pure bond of charity divine!
Conscious from whom, their new sensations flow!
To whom their renovated hearts they owe!
And conscious, while their heavenly, guide they bless,
Their gratitude is safe from all excess!
In sentient beings, if their love and zeal
Should rise proportion'd to the aid, they feel,
Unbounded, as thy benefits, should be
The thankful homage of our hearts to Thee.
Divine Deliverer! whose grace bestows
Exemption from unutterable woes!
Such gifts on men, as they can ne'er requite,
Made, from the slaves of darkness, sons of light!
Thou filial Deity! whose merits rise
To such amazing height in human eyes,
A justly humble mind, that feels their sway
Too great for earthly language to display,
Conceives, e'en seraphs, tho' in glory's beam,
May find their voice unequal to the theme!
And seems to view them in their heavenly seat,
Mute, from pure adoration, at thy feet:
Thou blest Restorer of corrupted man
From all the snares of Satan's dark divan!
Thou, who with true compassion, hast survey'd
Lost wanderers perishing without thy aid!
To whose pure eyes all wonders are reveal'd,
That live in mortals, from themselves conceal'd!
Who view'st with favor, when they most aspire,
Their narrow faculties, and vast desire!
O prosper, and sustain my anxious thought,
Pondering thy attributes, as mortals ought!
That while I strive to make thy nature known,
My zeal may tend to purify my own.
Pardon the daring aim of grateful love,
If, in research, man's intellect above,
I vainly seek such heavenly things to know,
As Thou to mortals hast not deign'd to show,
Veiling the mode of thy celestial birth
From beings blind to mysteries of earth!
Thy geniture, and thy redeeming power
Transcend the known extent of nature's dower:
But pity weak mortality--that tries
To reach, what may elude all human eyes!
The knowledge man desires, is found by none:
The Eternal Sire, He only, knows the Son:
Taught by this truth, be it our wish alone
To know Him, only as he would be known,
By grace divine! his bounty's blest effect
On those, who hail Him with devout respect!
Thou filial Deity in manly shape!
Whose eye no deeds, no thoughts of man, escape!
Thy servants have no wound, Thou dost not feel,
No sorrow, that thy aid can fail to heal!
In all the trials, I was born to bear,
Many, and sharp, have fallen to my share;
I bless them, leading me to feel, and see,
Our sweetest comfort is our trust in Thee.
Calm acquiescence in thy sacred will
Becomes an antidote to every ill;
As tasks, ensuring favour in thy sight,
Grief turns to joy, and anguish to delight;
Till all the chasten'd heart exults to bless
A Martyr's triumph o'er subdued distress!
Saviour! whose image pure maternal prayer,
Fix'd in my heart, with just dominion there,
Thou never banish'd thence! tho' in my youth,
I heard rash sceptics, scoffing at thy truth,
Deride thy Gospel, and thy deeds revile,
As the false tales of an impostor's guile:
Blest! that no impious wit had power to blind
Thy dawn of favour in my opening mind!
There, in maturer seasons, grief, and pain,
As heavenly agents, have confirmed thy reign.
My spirit's guardian! soother of my woes!
Still of my chequer'd days illume the close!
All mortals feel, their trespasses require
An Intercessor with th' eternal Sire;
And on their minds thy cheering favours shine,
Who feel, thou art an arbiter divine;
Who thy dominion o'er the soul confess,
And, as their final Judge, thy Godhead bless!
Deign to befriend me in my dying hour!
Thou clear Vicegerent of thy Father's power!
And, while, within a grateful heart, I own
My hopes to view Thee on thy heavenly throne.
With all thy merits on my soul imprest,
May faith's firm wings convey me to thy breast!
Such, friendly disputant of studious mind!
Ever to good, in active life, inclind!
Such are my thoughts, my views, my hopes, my creed,
Adverse, I own, to those, for which you plead!
And which, to speak without reserve, I deem
A rash surmise, a dark Socinian dream!
Tho' tenets diversely our fancy strike,
May both, in purity of heart alike,
Still trust the hope, to that endowment given,
To reach the glorious certainty of Heaven!
Where, when the pardon'd round their Lord unite
Their errors will be lost in beatific light.

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