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Catch from each other a contagious spot,
The foul forerunner of a general rot:
Then truth is hush'd that heresy may preach,
And all is trash that reason cannot reach;
While truths, on which eternal things depend,
Find not, or hardly find a single friend :
As soldiers watch the signal of command,
They learn to bow, to kneel, to sit, to stand,
Happy to fill religion's vacant place
With hollow form, and gesture, and grimace.
Such, when the Teacher of His church was there,
People and priest, the sons of Israel were ;
Stiff in the letter, lax in the design
And import of their oracles divine,
Their learning legendary, false, absurd,
And yet exalted above God's own word,
They drew a curse from an intended good,
Puffd up with gifts they never understood.
He judged them with as terrible a frown,
As if, not love, but wrath had brought Him down ;
Yet He was gentle as soft summer airs,
Had grace for others' sins, but none for theirs.
Through all He spoke a noble plainness ran,
Rhet'ric is artifice, the work of man,
And tricks and turns that fancy may devise,
Are far too mean for Him that rules the skies.
Th' astonish'd vulgar trembled while He tore
The mask from faces never seen before ;
He stripp'd th' impostors in the noonday sun,
Show'd that they follow'd all they seem'd to shun,
Their pray’rs made public, their excesses kept
As private as the chambers where they slept;
The temple and its holy rites profaned
By mumm'ries He that dwelt in it disdain'd;
Uplifted hands, that at convenient times
Could act extortion and the worst of crimes,
Wash'd with a neatness scrupulously nice,
And free from ev'ry taint but that of vice.
Judgment, however tardy, mends her pace
When obstinacy once has conquer'd grace.
They saw distemper heal'd, and life restored
In answer to the fiat of His word,
Confess'd the wonder, and with daring tongue,
Blasphemed th' authority from which it sprung.
They knew by sure prognostics seen on high,
The future tone and temper of the sky,
But grave dissemblers, could not understand
That sin let loose speaks punishment at hand.
Ask now of history's authentic page,
And call up evidence from ev'ry age,
Display, with busy and laborious hand,
The blessings of the most indebted land,
What nation will you find, whose annals prove
So rich an int'rest in Almighty love ?
They, and they only amongst all mankind,
Received the transcript of th’ Eternal Mind,
Were trusted with His own engraven laws,
And constituted guardians of His cause;
Theirs were the prophets, theirs the priestly call,
And theirs by birth the Saviour of us all.
In vain the nations, that had seen them rise
With fierce and envious yet admiring eyes,
Had sought to crush them, guarded as they were
By power divine, and skill that could not err.
Had they maintain'd allegiance firm and sure,
And kept the faith immaculate and pure,
Then the proud eagles of all-conqu’ring Rome
Had found one city not to be o'ercome;
And the twelve standards of the tribes unfurl'd
Had bid defiance to the warring world.
grace abused brings forth the foulest deeds, As richest soil the most luxuriant weeds; Cured of the golden calves their fathers' sin, They set up self, that idol-god within, View'd a Deliv'rer with disdain and hate, Who left them still a tributary state, Seized fast His hand, held out to set them free From a worse yoke, and nail'd it to the tree; There was the consummation and the crown, The flow'r of Israel's infamy full blown; Thence date their sad declension and their fall, Their woes, not yet repeald, thence date them all.
O Israel, of all nations most undone ! Thy diadem displaced, thy sceptre gone ; Thy temple, once thy glory, fallen and rased, And thou a worshipper e’en where thou mayst; Thy services, once holy without spot, Mere shadows now, their ancient pomp forgot ; Thy Levites, once a consecrated host, No longer Levites, and their lineage lost, And thou thyself o'er ev'ry country sown, With none on earth that thou canst call thine own; Cry aloud, thou that sittest in the dust, Cry to the prond, the cruel, and unjust, Knock at the gates of nations, rouse their fears, Say wrath is coming and the storm appears, But raise the shrillest cry in British ears.
What ails thee, restless as the waves that roar, And fling their foam against thy chalky shore ? Mistress, at least while Providence shall please, And trident-bearing queen of the wide seas Why, having kept good faith, and often shown Friendship and truth to others, find'st thou none ?
Stand now and judge thyself-hast thou incurr'd His anger who can waste thee with a word,
Who poises and proportions sea and land,
Weighing them in the hollow of His hand,
in whose awful sight all nations seem
As grasshoppers, as dust, a drop, a dream ?
Hast thou (a sacrilege His soul abhors)
Claim'd all the glory of thy prosp'rous wars,
Proud of thy fleets and armies, stolen the gem
Of His just praise to lavish it on them?
Hast thou not learn'd, what thou art often told,
A truth still sacred, and believed of old,
That no success attends on spears and swords
Unblest, and that the battle is the Lord's ?
Hast thou, though suckled at fair freedom's breast,
Exported slav'ry to the conquer'd East,
Pull'd down the tyrants India served with dread,
And raised thyseli, a greater, in their stead,
Gone thither arm’d and hungry, return’d full,
Fed from the richest veins of the Mogul,
A despot big with pow'r obtain'd by wealth,
And that obtain'd by rapine and by stealth ?
With Asiatic vices stored thy mind,
But left their virtues and thine own behind,
And, having truck'd thy soul, brought home the fee,
To tempt the poor to sell himself to thee ?
Where shall a teacher look in days like these,
For ears and hearts that he can hope to please ?
Look to the poor—the simple and the plain
Will hear perhaps thy salutary strain ;
Humility is gentle, apt to learn,
Speak but the word, will listen and return :
Alas, not so ! the poorest of the flock
Are proud, and set their faces as a rock,
Denied that earthly opulence they choose,
God's better gift they scoff at and refuse.
The rich, the produce of a nobler stem,
Are more intelligent at least, try them :
Oh vain inquiry! They, without remorse,
Are altogether gone a devious course,
Where beck’ning pleasure leads them, wildly stray,
Have burst the bands and cast the yoke away.
Now borne upon the wings of truth sublime,
Review thy dim original and prime;
This island spot of unreclaim'd rude earth,
The cradle that received thee at thy birth,
Was rock'd by many a rough Norwegian blast,
And Danish howlings scared thee as they pass'd ;
For thou wast born amid the din of arms,
And suck'd a breast that panted with alarms.
While yet thou wast a grov'ling, puling chit,
Thy bones not fashion'd and thy joints not knit,
The Roman taught thy stubborn knee to bow,
Though twice a Cæsar could not bend thee now :
His victory was that of orient light,
When the sun's shafts disperse the gloom of night.
Thy language at this distant moment shows
How much the country to the conqu’ror owes ;
Expressive, energetic, and refined,
It sparkles with the gems he left behind :
He brought thy land a blessing when he came,
He found thee savage, and he left thee tame,
Taught thee to clothe thy pink'd and painted hide,
And grace thy figure with a soldier's pride ;
He sow'd the seeds of order where he went,
Improved thee far beyond his own intent,
And while he ruled thee by the sword alone,
Maile thee at last a warrior like his own.
Religion, if in heav'nly truths attired,
Needs only to be seen to be admired,
But thine, as dark as witch'ries of the night,
Was form’d to harden hearts and shock the sight :