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Peruses closely the true Christian's face,
And finds it a mere mask of sly grimace;
Usurps God's office, lays his bosom bare,
And finds hypocrisy close lurking there.
And serving God herself through mere constraint,
Concludes his unfeign'd love of him a feint.
And yet God knows, look human nature through,
(And in due time the world shall know it too,)
That since the flow'rs of Eden felt the blast,
That after man's defection laid all waste,
Sincerity tow'rds the heart-searching God
Has made the new-born creature her abode,
Nor shall be found in unregen'rate souls,
Till the last fire burn all between the poles.
Sincerity why 'tis his only pride,
Weak and imperfect in all grace beside;
He knows that God demands his heart entire,
And gives him all his just demands require.
Without it his pretensions were as vain,
As, having it, he deems the world's disdain ;
That great defect would cost him not alone
Man's favourable judgment, but his own;
His birthright shaken, and no longer clear
Than while his conduct proves his heart sincere.
Retort the charge, and let the world be told
She boasts a confidence she does not hold;
That, conscious of her crimes, she feels instead
A cold misgiving, and a killing dread :
That while in health the ground of her support
Is madly to forget that life is short;
That sick she trembles, knowing she must die,
Her hope presumption, and her faith a lie;
That while she dotes, and dreams that she believes,
She mocks her Maker, and herself deceives;
Her utmost reach historical assent,
The doctrines warp'd to what they never meant ;
That truth itself is in her head as dull
And useless as a candle in a skull ;
And all her love of God a groundless claim,
A trick upon the canvass, painted flame.
Tell her again, the sneer upon her face,
And all her censures of the work of grace,
Are insincere, meant only to conceal
A dread she would not, yet is forc'd to feel;
That in her heart the Christian she reveres,
And while she seems to scorn him, only fears.
A poet does not work by square or line,
As smiths and joiners perfect a design;
At least we moderns, our attention less,
Beyond the example of our sires digress,
And claim a right to scamper and run wide,
Wherever chance, caprice, or fancy guide.
The world and I fortuitously met;
I ow'd a trifle, and have paid the debt;
She did me wrong, I recompens'd the deed,
And having struck the balance, now proceed.
Perhaps, however, as some years have pass'd
Since she and I convers'd together last,
And I have liv'd recluse in rural shades,
Which seldom a distinct report pervades,
Great changes and new manners have occurr'd,
And bless'd reforms, that I have never heard,
And she may now be as discreet and wise
As once absurd in all discerning eyes.
Sobriety, perhaps, may now be found
Where once intoxication press'd the ground:
The subtle and injurious may be just,
And he grown chaste that was the slave of lust;
Arts once esteem'd may be with shame dismiss'd;
Charity may relax the miser's fist;
The gamester may have cast his cards away,
Forgot to curse and only kneel to pray.
It has indeed been told me, (with what weight,
How credibly, 'tis hard for me to state,)
That fables old, that seem'd for ever mute,
Reviv'd are hast'ning into fresh repute,
And gods and goddesses, discarded long
Like useless lumber, or a stroller's song,
Are bringing into vogue their heathen train,
And Jupiter bids fair to rule again;
That certain feasts are instituted now,
Where Venus hears the lovers' tender vow;
That all Olympus through the country roves,
To consecrate our few remaining groves;
And Echo learns politely to repeat
The praise of names for ages obsolete;
That having prov'd the weakness, it should seem
Of revelation's ineffectual beam,
To bring the passions under sober sway,
And give the moral springs their proper play,
They mean to try what may at last be done,
By stout substantial gods of wood and stone,
And whether Roman rites may not produce
The virtues of old Rome for English use.
May such success attend the pious plan,
May Mercury once more embellish man,
Grace him again with long forgotten arts,
Reclaim his taste, and brighten up his parts,
Make him athletick as in days of old,
Learn'd at the bar, in the pelæstra bold,
Divest the rougher sex of female airs,
And teach the softer not to copy theirs :
The change shall please, nor shall it matter aught
Who works the wonder, if it be but wrought.
'Tis time, however, if the case stand thus,
For us plain folks, and all who side with us,
To build our altar, confident and bold,
And say as stern Elijah said of old,
The strife now stands upon a fair award,
If Israel's Lord be God, then serve the Lord.
If he be silent, faith is all a whim,
Then Baal is the God, and worship him.
Digression is so much in modern use, Thought is so rare, and fancy so profuse,
Some never seem so wide of their intent,
As when returning to the theme they meant ;
As mendicants, whose business is to roam,
Make every parish but their own their home.
Though such continual zigzags in a book,
Such drunken reelings have an awkward look,
And I had rather creep to what is true,
Than rove and stagger with no mark in view;
Yet to consult a little seem'd no crime,
The freakish humour of the present time:
But now to gather up what seems dispers'd,
And touch the subject I design'd at first,
May prove, though much beside the rules of art,
Best for the publick, and my wisest part.
And first, let no man charge me, that I mean
To clothe in sable ev'ry social scene,
And give good company a face severe,
As if they met around a father's bier;
For tell some men, that pleasure all their bent,
And laughter all their work, is life mispent ;
Their wisdom bursts into this sage reply,
Then mirth is sin, and we should always cry.
To find the medium asks some share of wit,
And therefore 'tis a mark fools never hit.
But though life's valley be a vale of tears,
A brighter scene beyond that vale appears,
Whose glory with a light that never fades,
Shoots between scatter'd rocks and op'ning shades,
And while it shows the land the soul desires,
The language of the land she seeks inspires.
Thus touch'd, the tongue receives a sacred cure
Of all that was absurd, profane, impure;
Held within modest bounds, the tide of speech
Pursues the course that truth and nature teach;
No longer labours merely to produce
The pomp of sound or tinkle without use;
Where'er it winds, the salutary stream,
Sprightly and fresh, enriches every theme,
While all the happy man possess'd before,
The gift of nature or the classick store,
Is made subservient to the grand design
For which Heav'n form'd the faculty divine.
So, should an idiot, while at large he strays,
Find the sweet lyre on which an artist plays,
With rash and awkward force the chords he shakes,
And grins with wonder at the jar he makes;
But let the wise and well-instructed hand
Once take the shell beneath his just command,
In gentle sounds it seem'd as it complain'd
Of the rude injuries it late sustain'd,
Till tun'd at length to some immortal song,
It sounds Jehovah's name, and pours his praise along.