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A PO E M
EXCELLENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.
O THOU, whate'er thy nature, cause, or name,
* Virtue does not consist in the repression of hope and desire, or in surly abstinence from pleasure and insensibility to pain : it does, on the contrary, afford the only suitable gratification to desire, and confidence to hope; and produces the only pure and lasting enjoyment. These happy ends will be attained, if our hopes and desires are fixed upon the improvement of the soul, and extended to the interests of eternity.
The Christian Religion alone affords the means of this happiness : for it alone teaches how we may improve the best faculties of the soul; and it can alone compose and gratify our
If still, bright offspring of etherial birth,
hopes and desires, by assuring us of future felicity, and by removing that uncertainty and fear which the thought of eternal duration must raise in every mind unsupported by the comforts of the Gospel, and sensible of its own guilt and infirmity
Though no future life were to be expected, happiness, even upon earth, could not be obtained, except from the mind. So that even a desire of present happiness should make us obey the precepts of Christianity ; as directly tending to improve and harmonize the soul, and to procure for us in this life, all the felicity whereof, in this life, our nature is capable.
These particulars I would attempt to explain, partly by argument, and partly by examples. I do not wish to follow that strict arrangement, which might be necessary in a philosophical discourse; but rather to dispose the subject in such a manner as may be most suitable to the natural course of human thought, may relieve the mind by variety in the style, and may afford the best opportunities for poetical illustration.
And sees in doubt, in fear, in danger hurl'd
Vain crowd! whom Fashion's meteor forms decoy,
feed your hope, and rouse your care: What goads you on to hurry at the call Of courtly Pride ; gasp in the stifling ball ; On couch of down to languish for repose, Or rush into the field where tumult glows; Or eye, with grinning scorn, expensive state, Through the snug opening of an iron grate, And peace, health, freedom, happiness, resign, To watch a dirty bag of useless coin?
King, peasant, statesman, soldier, rich and poor The old, the young, the courtier and the boor, All, of whatever garb, whatever name, Or power, or pleasure seek, or wealth, or fame.
And rightly seek; for so, by heaven inclined, These rule, and ought to rule, the human mind, Hopes, that rouse virtue, or from sloth protect, The musé would not extinguish, but direct.
Man's final mansion is not here below;
He, who bids nature flourish or decay,
away; And by the structure shows of human frame Man's native excellency, end, and aim. Man cannot soar on eagle wing, or dare The shaggy grasp of the relentless bear; But man the eagle's towering flight restrains, And binds the rough bear's stubborn strength in
chains; And views and measures, with adventurous eye, New orbs that glitter in th' unbounded sky. Though tempest bellowing the swoln surge deform, Man rides the swoln surge, and defies the storm; Sees freedom, science, commerce, arts increase, And bids a jarring world unite in peace. Is then the being, who such rule attains, Nought, but a bunch of fibres, bones, and veins ? Is all that acts, contrives, obeys, commands, Nought but the fingers of two feeble hands?
Hands that, a few uncertain summers o'er,
then wallow in the sensual sty, With those who live to eat, and drink, and die ; Through life's short hour with blind incaution run, Snatch present good, and present evil shun? Would
be such as these? Then haste away, And revel all the night and all the day The future time o'erlook, forget the past; Forget that such amusement cannot last; Forget that, thas engross’d by splendid sin, You blot the image of your God within ; Live hated, scorn'd, in sickness, and in fear, To die without a friend, without a tear. For this, were reason, power, invention, given To man, the heir of glory, and of heaven! His hope and joy in conscious virtue dwell, Acting, and knowing he has acted well ;