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Serves but to lead philosophers astray,
Where children would with ease discern the way;
And of all arts sagacious dupes invent,
To cheat themselves and gain the world's assent,
The worst is—Scripture warped from its intent.
The carriage bowls along and all are pleased,
If Tom be sober, and the wheels well greased,
But if the rogue be gone a cup too far,
Left out his linchpin, or forgot his tar,
It suffers interruption and delay,
And meets with hindrance in the smoothest way.
When some hypothesis absurd and vain
Has filled with all its fumes a critic's brain,
The text that sorts not with his darling whim,
Though plain to others, is obscure to him.
The Will made subject to a lawless force,
All is irregular, and.out of course,
And Judgment drunk, and bribed to lose his way,
Winks hard, and talks of darkness at noonday.
A critic on the sacred book should be
Candid and learned, dispassionate and free;
Free from the wayward bias bigots feel,
From Fancy's influence, and intemperate Zeal;
But above all (or let the wretch refrain,
Nor touch the page he cannot but profane),
Free from the domineering power of Lust;
A lewd interpreter is never just.
How shall I speak thee, or thy power address,
Thou god of our idolatry, the Press ?
By thee, Religion, Liberty, and Laws,
Exert their influence, and advance their cause :
By thee, worse plagues than Pharaoh's land befell,
Diffused, make Earth the vestibule of Hell;
Thou fountain at which drink the good and wise,
Thou ever bubbling spring of endless lies,
Like Eden's dread probationary tree,
Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.
No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest,
Till half mankind were like himself possessed.
Philosophers, who darken and put out
Eternal truth by everlasting doubt,
Church-quacks, with passions under no command,
Who fill the world with doctrines contraband,
Discoverers of they know not what, confined
Within no bounds—the blind that lead the blind,
To streams of popular opinion drawn,
Deposit in those shallows all their spawn.
The wriggling fry soon fill the creeks around,
Poisoning the waters where their swarms abound;
Scorned by the nobler tenants of the flood,
Minnows and gudgeons gorge the unwholesome food;
The propagated myriads spread so fast,
E'en Leeuwenhoek himself would stand aghast,
Employed to calculate the enormous sum,
And own his crab-computing powers o'ercome.
Is this hyperbole? The world well known,
Your sober thoughts will hardly find it one.
Fresh confidence the speculatist takes
From every hair-brained proselyte he makes,
And therefore prints, himself but half deceived,
Till others have the soothing tale believed.
Hence comment after comment, spun as fine
As bloated spiders draw the flimsy line;
Hence the same word, that bids our lusts obey,
Is misapplied to sanctify their sway.
If stubborn Greek refuse to be his friend,
Hebrew, or Syriac, shall be forced to bend;
If languages and copies all cry, "No!'
Somebody proved it centuries ago.
Like trout pursued, the critic in despair
Darts to the mud, and finds his safety there.
Women, whom custom has forbid to fly
The scholar's pitch (the scholar best knows why)
With all the simple and unlettered poor,
Admire his learning, and almost adore;
Whoever errs, the priest can ne'er be wrong,
With such fine words familiar to his tongue.
Ye ladies! (for, indifferent in your cause,
I should deserve to forfeit all applause)
Whatever shocks, or gives the least offence
To virtue, delicacy, truth, or sense,
(Try the criterion, 'tis a faithful guide),
Nor has, nor can have, Scripture on its side.
None but an author knows an author's cares,
Or Fancy's fondness for the child she bears.
Committed once into the public arms,
The baby seems to smile with added charms.
Like something precious ventured far from shore,
'Tis valued for the danger's sake the more.
He views it with complacency supreme,
Solicits kind attention to his dream,
And daily more enamoured of the cheat,
Kneels and asks Heaven to bless the dear deceit;
So one, whose story serves at least to show
Men loved their own productions long ago,
Wooed an unfeeling statue for his wife,
Nor rested till the Gods had given it life.
If some mere driveller suck the sugared fib,
One that still needs his leading string and bib,
And praise his genius, he is soon repaid
In praise applied to the same part—his head;
For 'tis a rule that holds for ever true,
Grant me discernment, and I grant it you.
Patient of contradiction as a child,
Affable, humble, diffident, and mild,
Such was Sir Isaac, and such Boyle and Locke,
Your blunderer is as sturdy as a rock.
The creature is so sure to kick and bite,
A muleteer's the man to set him right.
First Appetite enlists him Truth's sworn foe,
Then obstinate Self-will confirms him so.
Tell him he wanders, that his error leads
To fatal ills; that though the path he treads
Be flowery, and he see no cause of fear,
Death and the pains of Hell attend him there;
In vain: the slave of arrogance and pride,
He has no hearing on the prudent side.
His still-refuted quirks he still repeats,
New raised objections with new quibbles meets,
Till sinking in the quicksand he defends,
He dies disputing, and the contest ends;
But not the mischiefs: they still left behind,
Like thistle-seeds, are sown by every wind.
Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill,
Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will,
And with a clear and shining lamp supplied,
First put it out, then take it for a guide.
Halting on crutches of unequal size,
One leg by truth sypported, one by lies,
They sidle to the goal with awkward pace,
Secure of nothing, but to lose the race.
Faults in the life breed errors in the brain,
And these, reciprocally, those again.
The mind and conduct mutually imprint
And stamp their image in each other's mint;
Each sire and dam, of an infernal race,
Begetting and conceiving all that's base.
None sends his arrow to the mark in view,
Whose hand is feeble, or his aim untrue.
For though, ere yet the shaft is on the wing
Or when it first forsakes the elastic string,
It err but little from the intended line,
It falls at last, far wide of his design;
So he who seeks a mansion in the sky,
Must watch his purpose with a stedfast eye,
That prize belongs to none but the sincere,
The least obliquity is fatal here.
With caution taste the sweet Circean cup,
He that sips often, at last drinks it up,
Habits are soon assumed, but when we strive
To strip them off, 'tis being flayed alive.
Called to the temple of impure delight,
He that abstains, and he alone, does right.
If a wish wander that way, call it home,
He cannot long be safe whose wishes roam.
But if you pass the threshold, you are caught,
Die then, if power Almighty save you not.
There hardening by degrees, till double steeled,
Take leave of nature's God, and God revealed,
Then laugh at all you trembled at before,
And joining the freethinkers' brutal roar,
Swallow the two grand nostrums they dispense-
That Scripture lies, and blasphemy is sense.
If clemency revolted by abuse
Be damnable, then damned without excuse.
Some dream that they can silence, when they will,
The storm of passion, and say, 'Peace, be still !'
But, “Thus far and no farther,' when addressed
To the wild wave, or wilder human breast,
Implies authority that never can,
That never ought to be the lot of man.
But, Muse, forbear; long flights forbode a fall,
Strike on the deep-toned chord the sum of all.
Hear the just law—the judgment of the skies!
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies;
And he that will be cheated to the last,
Delusions strong as Hell shall bind him fast.
But if the wanderer his mistake discern,
Judge his own ways, and sigh for a return,
Bewildered once, must he bewail his los
For ever and for ever? No-the Cross!
There, and there only, (though the deist rave,
And atheist, if Earth bear so base a slave)
There, and there only, is the power to save.
There no delusive hope invites despair,
No mockery meets you, no deception there;
The spells and charms that blinded you before,
All vanish there, and fascinate no more.
I am no preacher; let this hint suffice-
The Cross once seen is death to every vice;
Else He that hung there suffered all his pain,
Bled, groaned, and agonized, and died in vain.