Grotius, his arguments for the truth of Christian religion rendred into plain English verse.
Grotius, Hugo, 1583-1645., Virgil. Bucolica. 4. English.
THou, blessed Jesus!* who in Heav'n dost reign,
Assist my Thoughts, while in an humble strain,
The Truth, and Certainty, I represent,
Of that Religion, for which thou wast sent!
That while Tiber'ius did the Empire sway,*
Jesus of Naz'areth did in Judah stay,
Not Christians only constantly profess,
Jewish, and Pagan Authors, do no less:
Sueton'ius, Pliny, Tac'itus, have his Fame,
And numbers after them repeat the same:
And that this Jesus, Pilate crucify'd,
Howe're reproachful, Christians ne're deny'd:
Nay this the Jews ne're scruple to declare,
Tho great, on that account, their Suff'rings are,
Where e're disperst they among Christians live.
And Proofs beyond desire the Pagans give;
Who Pilate's Acts have down to us convey'd,
In whose Memorials this as chief is laid.
Julian, and others, who the most oppose
That rule of life, which blessed Jesus shows,
Concerning this did ne're one Question move:
This the most disagreeing People prove;
The Proofs so full, no History has more.
*Yet him most distant Realms as God adore.
And this appears not in our Age alone,
But we may trace it back unto his own:
And when at Rome fierce Nero did preside,
Many for that Profession bravely dy'd,
As Tacitus, and sev'ral others tell.
*And of these Worsh'ppers, many did excel
In Judgment and improvements of the Mind
(Not here to name whom of the Jews we find)
Such Serg'ius was who did in Cyprus rule,
And Dionysius, Head of a fam'd School;
That glorious ancient Martyr Polycarp,
Justin, and Irenaeus, Writers sharp;
Wise Athenagoras at Athens bred,
And Origin, whose Learning far has spread,
With Alexandrian Clement many more,
Unto this suffering Lord like Rev'rence bore.
What with such thinking Men as these could sway,
Most of them bred in quite another way,
On such an Object of their Faith to call,
*Where neither Honour could, or Gain befal?
Were it not this, that having us'd the care,
In things which of the chiefest moment are,
Fit for the wise, trying the constant fame,
Which did his supernat'ral Works proclaim;
They found them such, beyond the least dispute,
As did all vain Philosophy confute:
Diseases quitting the long ravag'd Field,
When nothing in all Nature help could yeild:
Sight giv'n to him who ne're could use an Eye;
That questionless miraclous supply
Page 27Of thousands, with created Loaves of Bread,
Repeated, and thro' distant Regions spread;
And Life call'd back again after 'twas fled.
Not here the numerous instances to name,*
Which had obtain'd such an unblemisht Fame,
That Celsus, and ev'n Julian, them confess,
And the learn'd Jewish Talmudists no less:
These they ne're scruple Prodigies to call,
And therein own them supernatural.
Long fixt Diseases yeilding at command
Of the least motion of the Lip, or Hand,
Argue a Pow'r which Nature must obey:
But if in this such Efficacy lay;
It no less strange appears, that of all those,
Who Christ, and his Religion, did oppose,
None should the mighty Secret yet disclose.
And hence we with just reas'ning may collect,
That of Imposture none can these suspect;
Since they were publick, and expos'd to sight
Of Men, who 'gainst Convicti'on us'd to fight,
And Men well conversant in ev'ry Art
That nat'ral Wit, or Study could impart.
And the like things repeated as was need,
Shew'd that these Works did not from chance proceed.
Besides th'effects were such as long did last;
When things by accident are quickly past.
These things with due Consideration weigh'd,
'Gainst which the Jews have no Objections made,
Their Force from something more than humane had;
Which either a good Spirit was, or bad:
The bad would never these great Truths attest,
By which their Empire here is so deprest,
And which prohibit their beloved Feast,
Page 28Deeds, and Desires obscene; Experience shows,
That Daemons all their Pomp and Worship lose,
Magick, and all their other Arts held vain,
Where e're Christ'anity does footing gain:
Porphiry owns, Christ's Advent did impair
The Forces of those Princes of the Air.
Who can think Evil Spirits so unwise,
Where there no Honour Advantage lies,
But great Disgrace and Detriment t'ensue,
Yet the same Acti'ons still they should pursue?
Less is it to be thought it should agree
With the known Wisdom of the Deity,
And that extensive Goodness all Men see,
To suffer Men, guilty of nothing ill,
Devoted absolutely to his Will,
Such as all grant the Prim'tive Christ'ians were,
To be trapan'd into a fatal Snare;
Men in their Lives unblam'd, and suff'ring pain,
That they a faultless Conscience might maintain.
But if you say these Deeds must be assign'd
Unto some good, but secundary Mind;
Therein that they the Godhead pleas'd you own;
For all good Spirits look at that alone.
Not here those wondrous Works of Christ to name,
Which no less Author than a God proclaim;
As with new Life informing Breathless Clay:
And who, besides, can of th' Amighty say,
He does; or suffers Wonders without cause?
For no wise Maker of well-founded Laws,
Would without weighty Reason make them vain:
But then who can another Reason feign,
Than what our Saviour did himself declare?
That God thereby did Testimony bear
Page 29Unto those sacred Doctrines which he taught.
By those that saw them what else could be thought?
They being such as we observ'd before,
As 'twere a scandal to the God w'adore,
And impious to believe, he would impose
On Men so perfectly resign'd as those.
This was the cause why many of the Jews,
Who Moses for their constant Guide did chuse,
About that time when Jesus here did move,
Receiv'd him as a Master from above,
Such were the Nazarens and Ebio'nites,
Zealous Asserters of the Jewish Rites.
Christ's Miracles like Confirmation have,*
From his return to Life out of the Grave:
This has not only been for Truth receiv'd,
But a chief Article to be believ'd
By all who e're Christ'anity profest.
But it for certain needs must be confest,
All could not this matter of Faith have thought,
Unless the Men, who first Christ's Doctrine taught,
Had full perswasi'on in their Hearers wrought;
But, evidently, this could ne're have been,
Without asserting what themselves had seen:
None moderately wise, would e're have chose
A Faith, which to such Dangers did expose,
Unless they had affirm'd it's Truth, who saw
This great Foundation of the Christian Law:
But, that it always was affirm'd, is shown
By other Writings, fully as their own.
And, as in Books as clearly 'tis reveal'd,
They to five hundred Witnesses appeal'd,
Who saw our Saviour come to Life again,
But how durst any so appeal that feign?
Page 30And who could on such Multitudes prevail,
To cheat the World with a fictitious Tale?
Nay were the Twelve all who had this maintain'd,
They were enow full Credit to have gain'd;
For no Man would for nothing be a Knave.
Honours 'tis sure thereby they could not have;
For those were at the absolute dispose
Of Jews and Heathens, who did them oppose:
Nor could they have by this encreast their store,
Thro' it they lost what they had gain'd before:
Nor could one benefit of Life, invite
To cheat the World with any cunning slight:
Their very preaching, as full well they knew,
To Labours, Hunger, Thirst, and Prisons drew:
Then Fame with their own Sect could never tempt
Plain Men, from all degrees of Pride exempt,
So many Inconveniencies to bear,
For the thin diet of that pop'ular Air;
Nor could they hope that Doctrine would succeed,
With Nature, still intent upon it's need,
When all Authority on Earth oppos'd;
But as they with God's sacred Promise clos'd.
This may be added; that whatever Fame
They might propound, by preaching up Christ's Name,
They had no expectation it could last,
For, so with Clouds God's Purpose was o'recast,
They thought the World did to it's Period hast;
Which is in theirs, and other Writings plain.
The sole Objection which can yet remain,
Is that they ly'd for their Religion's sake:
Which no Man, that had duly weigh'd, would make;
Page 31For either their Religion true they thought,
Or, what they knew to be a Falshood, taught:
But had they not believ'd it to be best,
They would not have forsaken all the rest,
Among which Safety lay and Honour too,
Nor had profest it, barely as 'twas true,
Unless they that Profession needful knew:
For nothing else could free them from the Guilt,
Of all the Blood through that Professi'on spilt:
But if they that believ'd, not true alone,
But best, and necess'ry for them to own,
After the Founders Death to be receiv'd;
This could not have obtain'd, had he deceiv'd,
Declaring his own rising from the Dead:
No Men whose Understandings were not fled,
Finding their Expectations frustrate there,
Would to that Faith still holy Rev'rence bear.
Then all Religions, chiefly Christ's, deny
To blemish sacred things with any Lie:
Religion therefore, such an one besure,
Could never this officious Lie procure.
The Men besides were such, as their worst Foes
For nothing but simplicity expose:
Nor had, such, Wit enough so well to feign,
And who would do it for the sake of pain?
Which that Profession certainly would gain:
I'th'utmost Tortures Malice could invent,
Many for this out of the World were sent:
How much soever some might chuse to bear,
For an Opinion which they valu'd dear;
Who can imagine Men with Sense indu'd,
Not one alone, but a great multitude,
Should make themselves subject to certain Woe,
For what themselves had known to be untrue?
Page 32But then their Lives, and Writings which they left,
Shew that they were not of their Wits bereft.
What may confirm the Evidence of those,
Who the first Witnesses for Christ arose,
Serves for St. Paul as much, who did declare,
That rapt above the Regions of the Air,
Whether with strengthned Rays of mortal sight,
Or meerly by an intellectu'al Light,
The Soul being sep'rate from the Body's Chain,
He saw where Christ does with his Father reign.
All that the Jews could teach, he had acquir'd,
Nor greater honour need to have desir'd,
Than what he might expect in his old way:
When on the other side, for this, he lay
Expos'd to th'utmost hatred of his Friends,
Nature depriv'd of all its darling ends,
Travels, and Labours all his worldly Meed,
And a reproachful death was to succeed.
*VVho can assent to proofs, so clear delay;
Unless that 'tis impossible he say,
That is a contradiction does imply?
Which we of this may with good grounds deny.
At the same time to be alive, and dead,
VVere contradicti'ous: but when life is fled,
Back by the Pow'r that gave it to be brought,
Can never sure impossible be thought:
As Plato writes, to Eris this befell:
Heracl'des this does of a VVoman tell:
Of one Herodotus does this relate:
And this, says Plutarch, was anothers fate:
VVhich shews that VVise-men thought that it might be;
If, that 'twas possible, we then agree,
For Christ to breath again with living breath,
After its be'ng extinguisht once in death;
And that 'twas so in fact's so fully prov'd,*
That it the Jewish Rabbi Becai mov'd:
But as his Followers, and others, shew,
He held forth to the World a Doctrine new;
This must by needful Consequence be true,
Since he maintain'd 'twas by divine Command;
For with God's Justice it can no way stand,
Or Goodness either, to exalt so high
One, who in so momentous things would lie:
Had he been such an one, who would believe
That he the certain notice should receive
Both when, and how, he should from Life retire,
And have his Reins new fill'd with active Fire,
Himself declaring that all this was wrought,
For Confirmat'ion of the Truths he taught?
These Arguments do from the Fact arise.*
Let's come to what within the Doctrine lies:
He who believes, that God did all things make,
And care of his own Workmanship does take;
And thinks withal, how great is Humane Mind;
Unto what noble purposes design'd!
To be acquir'd by freedom of the Will,
In chusing either Moral Good, or Ill,
To close with the Rewards which so invite,
Or take the Penalties in endless Night,
Can't think all Worship should aside be laid,
Or that refuse which Jesus does perswade.
Not only this the Evidence of Fact,
Intrinsick Motives strongly this exact;
For no Religion ever yet arose,
Which did so excellent Rewards propose,
Or such a perfect Rule of Life did lay,
Or went on in so wonderful a way.
*Here to begin with the Reward, the end,
Which in their Act'ions Men do first intend,
Tho in the execution last 'tis seen:
Those Institut'ions Moses did bring in,
If we the Letter of the Law regard,
Beyond this Life did promise no Reward;
Rich Soil, a plentiful encrease of Store,
Conquest o're all that Arms against them bore,
A vigorous old Age, and prospect clear
Of Issue long the taintless Name to bear,
Were all that did, without thick Clouds appear.
From which the Wise alone themselves had wrought,
Through a long chain of recollective thought.
Hence Moses tho the Sadduces receiv'd,
They nothing of a future state believ'd:
The wisest Grecians, who their Learning drew
From all Caldaeans, or Aegyptians, knew,
Conceiv'd some hopes of Life when this were out;
Yet still 'twas mingled with o're-shad'wing doubt.
In the Socratick Writings thus 'tis found;
Nor do the Latins less with doubts abound:
Of Tully this, and Sen'ca may be said;
When to the Truth their Arguments have led,
They seem'd afraid with their own thoughts to close,
Which on so fallible a ground arose,
That 'twould with Beasts as well as Men agree,
The consequence of which when some did see,
A Transmigration they of Souls did feign,
From Men to Beasts, from Beasts to Men again:
Nothing like Proof did e're this recommend;
Yet it be'ng evident Man has some end;
Some thought that Vertue was its own reward,
In Instances most perilous and hard;
Page 35That that alone gives pleasure to the full,
The Wise be'ing happy in the burning Bull:
But most Men saw thro this so thin pretence,
A form of words against apparent sense;
As if the height of happiness could lye,
In dangers, Nature robb'd of all supply,
Faintings, and dissolutions at the last,
After a life in wasting torments past.
Others, who law the vanity of this,
In gratifying Sense plac'd all their bliss:
But this the nature of Mankind deprest,
And humbled Man to the degree of Beast,
Extinguishing those gen'rous inbred Seeds,
Which carry him erect to noble Deeds.
In such incertainties Men groapt about,
Till Christ in Charity remov'd the doubt;
The perfect knowledg of Man's end he taught,
Life without death, or pain, and happy beyond thought;
And this not only for that part of Man,
For which some Ages a Conjecture ran,
If not Tradit'ion, that it should remain,
After the be'ng unloos'ned from its Chain;
But that God would our Bodies spiritu'alize,
That they may to a joynt Communion rise;
And this with mighty Equity, since they,
As they the Sacti'ons of God's Laws obey,
Are often forc'd to bear with dol'rous Pain,
And Death at last, for all their Labour gain;
Wherefore some Compensation should remain:
Nor are the promiss'd Joys so grosly low,
As were the chiefest some dull Jews did know,
Perpetu'al Feasts, or that the more refin'd,
Restless Society with Woman-kind,
That powerful Lure sly Mahomet design'd:
Page 36These are peculiar to a Mortal State,
To cherish Life, or else to propagate.
Vigour in Bodies never to abate,
Beauty beyond what in the Stars does shine,
Knowledg of God, and Providence Divine,
A mind with steady light, without one cloud
Of baleful Error, or reserve to shroud,
Perfect tranquillity of settled wills,
While God himself the Soul with Raptures fills,
Th' extatick Soul wholly imployd in Praise,
And admiration which no time decays;
This is the happiness, which Christ declares,
Which he much undervalues that compares.
*Some urge a difficulty yet unsolv'd,
How Bodies should, after their being dissolv'd,
Have all their scatt'red Particles agen,
And make the self-same individual Men.
But by their search Philosophers can tell,
That what ere changes have in things befel,
The matter of them still continues fit
Of sev'ral different Species to admit.
How far soever they may be disjoind,
Th' Almighty can their Receptacles find,
And into the same mass together bind.
Things of like kind the Chymists can unite,
Of him who made the World shall we deny't?
If into Nature's common works we look,
We find where things have diff'rent species took,
To the first form they oft again return;
As we by sev'ral sorts of Seeds discern.
Nor yet a Knot more difficult t' unty,
In human Bodies eat by Beasts does lie,
And they again for Men becoming food,
This may concerning them be understood;
Page 37Of what we eat 'tis but a little part,
Which Nature to our Substance does convert,
Most, Excrement, or such accession, proves,
As Phlegm, or Choler, which with ease removes;
Diseases, inward Heat, and outward Air,
Much, ev'n of that which nourishes, impair:
Which being so; what should our God impede,
Who of mute Creatures still preserves the breed,
Of human Bodies so much care to take,
That what of theirs does food for others make,
No more of added substance should produce,
Than Poison, or the Med'cines which we use?
And this the rather, since we plainly see,
Man's Flesh by Nature don't for Food agree.
But yet for once, let us admit it were,
And part of th'last must to the first repair,
To constitute the Man which was before;
Yet this Objection does not press the more;
For the same Person it may well be thought,
Tho back to th' first some Particles are brought;
No less Mutati'ons ev'n in Life are wrought.
In Worms we may discover little Flies,
In Plants, and Wine, a secret Virtue lies,
Which the same substance after waste supplies.
Of the like kind we might name many more,
And shall we think the God whom we adore,
Can't make a Body, tho dissolv'd, the same?
Men we are are sure, for Learning great in Fame,
Not only this as possible receiv'd;
But that 'twould be in future times believ'd.
This did Caldaean Zoroaster own,
And scarce one Stoick was against it known:
Peripatetick Theopompus too,
In his Researches did this thought pursue.
*The second Proof, that Christ's Religion's best,
Is in the holy Rules it gives, exprest:
All others that have been, or can be fram'd,
Compar'd with this, deserve to be disclaim'd,
Both for the Worship of the Deity,
And every Office which in Life does lie.
The Cruelty of the old Pagan Rites,
Is fully seen, in what their Porph'ry writes:
And where e're late discov'ries any find,
They 'ppear to be unworthy of Mankind.
In almost ev'ry place a Notion ran,
That God's were pacify'd by Blood of Man,
Nor Grecian Learning, nor the Roman Law,
Did it's Authority from this withdraw:
The bloody Bacchanali'ans this may prove,
And the warm Sacrifice to Lati'al Jove,
Their Cere'al Mysteries, most sacred held,
With all sorts of Obscenities were fill'd;
As was most visible to ev'ry sight,
When their Arcana were expos'd to Light:
Clement of Alexandr'ia this does blame,
With other Authors of undoubted Fame:
Grave Cato was asham'd of those lew'd Plays,
With which they kept their Consecrated Days.
But the Religion of the Jews, indeed,
Allow'd no wicked or dishonest Deed;
Yet loads of Ceremonies it enjoyn'd,
That People, to Idolatry inclin'd,
By no means tending to improve the Mind;
Meerely their own Will-worship to restrain;
Hence were the Beasts in Sacrifices slain:
Their painful circumcising the Foreskin:
And counting Work on the seventh day a Sin,
With the prohibiting some sorts of Meat:
When cunning Mahomet set up his Cheat;
Page 39This was a Pattern unto his design:
A Law he added to abstain from Wine.
But that Religion which to Christ we owe,
Does how we should the Godhead worship, show;
That we must offer to the purest Mind,
What is, as much as may be, of the kind,
And Works good in themselves: whence he requires;
Not Circumcision of the Flesh, but of Desires:
Our Hands from ev'ry Work not to withdraw;
But what is contr'ary to th'justest Law:
Not for our Sins with Blood of Beasts t'atone,
But, if the Truth require, to yeild our own.
To think our God himself has Debtor made,
For whatsoe're to help the poor is paid:
Not to abstain from certain kinds of Meat,
But with fit Moderati'on any eat,
Such as we find unto our Health is due:
Sometimes with Fasts the Body to subdue,
That it may be more subject to the Mind,
To the pursuit of things sublime, enclin'd.
But the chief Proof of our Religion's shown,
To lie in pious Trust of God alone,
Thro' which devoted wholly to his Will,
We wait when he'l his purposes fulfil,
With certain Faith, a pledg of future things,
Whence lively Hope with solid Pleasure springs,
With an exalted Love, sincerely true,
Not only of our God, but Neighbour too:
Hence we obey not out of servile fear,
But that we him may please whom we revere,
Looking that as his Sons he'l us regard,
And with Paternal Blessings at the last reward.
We're farther taught, unto our God to pray,
Not for that Wealth, which must in time decay,
Page 40Honours, or other things, too often found
To Men's chief Infelicity t'abound:
In the first place God's Glory to desire,
But of these perishing things what Nature does require;
However trusting Providence Divine,
To which we should wholly our selves resign.
But then to think no Labour is too great,
In foll'wing what tends to th'immortal State,
Pardon of Sins, and God's assisting Grace,
That thro' all hazards we may Truth embrace.
This Worship Christ in his Religi'on taught,
Than which none can of God be worthier thought.
*And, suitable to this, you that will find,
Which with relati'on unto Man's enjoy'd.
Mahomet's way, brought forth, and spread by Arms,
Breaths nothing else but terrible Alarms:
So the Laconic, which the Greeks commend,
And th'Oracle approv'd, to this does tend;
Which Aristotle both observes, and blaims;
Yet War against Barbari'ans just proclaims,
As if 'twere nat'ral; when o'th'other side,
By Nature we to Friendship's Laws are ty'd:
What more unequal than when Skin for Skin
Is pay'd, where ever civil Rule has bin;
When Slaughter takes whole bleeding Nations in,
Such Acts as glor'ious Men are proud to own,
And hence their Heads triumphant Lawrels crown.
War, oft unjust, procur'd the mighty Name
To Rome, that City flatter'd so by Fame:
What but their Glory, and unweildy Might,
Made them 'gainst Cyprus, and Sardin'ia fight?
In gen'ral, as the best Historians write,
No Nati'ons look'd on robbing as a fault,
When from beyond their Confines Spoils were brought:
Page 41That to revenge a Wrong a Vertue was,
Did with the Stagyrist, and Tully, pass.
The Gladiators mutilating Fights
The Pagans us'd in publick, for Delights;
And their own Children Men did oft expose.
That Discipline, with which the Jews do close,
Better, and much more holy does appear;
Yet, even that, with many things does bear,
Or rather grants, which give their Passions force;
As using 'gainst sev'n Cities no remorse,
With which their licence, howe're not content,
They think't of all who differ from them meant;
And hence they hate all Men of other ways;
The Jew now curses Christ'ians when he prays:
Their Law allow'd to make Returns of Pain;
An Hom'cide might b'a private hand be slain,
When to the dead th'Avenger was of kin;
But such return Christ's Law has made a Sin:
Nor should we in our Actions imitate,
What shewn in others we most justy hate:
In the first place to help the good w'are taught,
And like our God, to benefit the naught,
God who has giv'n in common to Mankind,
The Sun, the starry Host, Air, Shours and Wind.
Nothing does more the care of Laws befit,*
Than th' union which does the two Sexes knit:
No wonder that the Pagans this did slight;
Since of th' Adulteries, and Rapes they Write,
In which the Gods they worship'd did delight:
Nay by th' example of the Gods they prove,
That Male with Male may do the Act of Love:
For this cause with the Gods have been eroll'd
Antin'ous latest, Ganymed of old.
Page 42This with Mahometans is usu'al known;
Sineses, others too, for lawful own.
Grec'ian Philosophers much Art do use,
Under an honest name that Vice t'excuse,
And these whole Cities render'd common stews,
While they Community of Women prais'd;
When yet indulgent Nature seems t'have rais'd
A conjugal Affection, ev'n with Brutes:
How much more equal is't, t'avoid Disputes,
That the more holy Creature, Man, proceed,
From an united Love, and unmixt Seed?
Lest all Paternal Care, and Filial Love,
But empty useless names on Earth should prove.
The Jewish Law to check Uncleanness strives;
But yet too plainly yeilds one many Wives,
And, for small causes, gives the Husband leave
To be divorc'd from one he did receive:
This at this day Mahometans maintain,
Among the Greeks, and Latines, did so reign,
That the Lacon'ians would let out their Wives,
And this reproach, ev'n Cato's Fame survives.
But by that perfect Law Christ did perswade,
The Ax unto the very Root is laid.
Who does a Woman's Chastity invade,
Or but commits with a lascivious Eye,
Can by no means the Imputation fly,
Before the great Discerner of the Mind,
Who, as 'twas done, judges what was design'd:
And, since true Friendship does in Union lie,
Body, as well as Soul, to one would tie.
And this is much more profitable known,
For bringing up the Children which we own.
Few Ethnicks were contented with one Wife:
The Romans, thus, and Germans, led their Life,
Page 43The Christi'ans thus; that as the Wive's desire
Is giv'n the Man, she should have his entire;
And the affair at home may well proceed;
While diff'rent Mistresses would discord breed.
To come to th' use of things which pass for good;*
Some Ethnicks Theft, as crim'nal, n'ere with∣stood:
For this Egyptians, Spartans, licence had;
Romans this, but in private men, forbad;
The chiefest business of the Publick 'twas;
Which made their Orator that Sarcasm pass,
That if they should to all their own restore;
They'd live in Cottages, as heretofore.
Against this was the Jewish Law severe;
Yet did with Usury to Strangers bear:
Thus it to suit their Geniuses did strain,
Who valu'd their Religion by their Gain.
Christ did Injustice totally restrain;
Without enquiring who the persons were:
And for frail things forbad all carking card;
Our minds being unfit for two desires,
Either of which all of the Man requires,
Each of them prompting him in sev'ral ways.
Those cares, which Riches keep, as well as raise,
Bring so much servitude, and constant pain,
As steals away the pleasure of the gain,
While little cost and diligence, acquires,
Those few, and easie things, Nature desires;
And if indulgent Heav'n affords us more,
We need not throw away an useless store,
As some Philosophers have done before;
Nor without profit it at home retain,
Or lay it out in things profusely vain:
Page 44But we are taught it nobly to apply,
While we the wants of those that need supply,
Giving, or leading, as those well becomes,
Who know they are but Stewards of their Sums,
Plac'd in their hands by God, but to dispence,
Yet they true Treasures may obtain from thence;
What's well laid out, God takes as to him paid,
And makes returns which nothing can invade.
Hence Liberality, next to divine,
Did in the practice of first Christ'ans shine,
The farthest parts of Greece help'd Palestine;
As if the World were all one Familie.
But in the Law we may this Caut'ion see;
We should beware of looking for our pay
At other hands, than his to whom we pray;
Lest we deflow'r the Benefit we do,
Whilst Profit, or Vain-glory we pursue:
And lest, as 'tis too common, we pretend,
That we should want our selves what we should lend,
That Age and Accidents come on so fast,
That 'twill not for our own Occasions last;
The Law does promise a divine Supply,
For those who with its lib'ral Rule comply:
And that we may the more in God confide,
Bids us observe how well he does provide
For th' animal, and vegitable kind:
And we think meanly of the Sov'raign Mind,
If we distrust his Word without a Pawn,
As if he were a Man whose Credit's gone.
*Forswearing is forbid by other Laws:
By this, to swear at all, without just cause;
And such Veracity it does require,
That if'twere kept, we need no Oaths require.
In this Religion we shall find amass'd,*
What-e're of Excellent has ever past,
In Sentences, or Writings of the Wise,
Besides the Sanction added from the Skys.
In what a moving manner does this teach
A modesty in actions, and in speech,
Temperance, Goodness, honest deeds, and mind,
Prudence, with ev'ry office of Mankind;
What is from Magistrates, and Subjects, due,
From Parents, Children, Servants, Masters too,
And what, where Marr'age-rites one of two:
Often it does the needful Rule repeat,
Against what with such specious shews do's cheat,
Honour and Glory, which have past for brave
With Greeks and Romans, most reputed grave:
But then the Summary of all does prove,
That we should worship him through whom we move,
And as our very selves, our Neighbours love;
That is, should never fail for them to act,
What for our selves we should be sure t'exact.
But some may urge against those Verities,
The mighty oppositions that arise
Among Professors of Christ's holy Name;
The multitudes of Sects themselves proclaim.
Yet this a ready answers may receive:*
That in all arts we may the same perceive:
Either thro imbecillity of mind,
Or that to parties they're too much inclin'd:
Yet these are limitted to certain bounds,
Which in their controversies serve for grounds,
On which each his own Argument would build;
And thus the Men Mathematicks skill'd,
Page 46Have heates about the making Circles square:
When 'tis as evident that none e're were.
Whether if equals be from equals ta'en,
That is not equal which does yet remain.
In Physicks, Med'cine, other Arts beside,
This diff'rence, and agreement is descryd:
Nor does vari'ty of opinions, known
Among the Men who Christ's Religion own,
Hinder at all but that they may agree,
In what we the cheif Rules of living see,
Those gen'rous Principles, before exprest,
Which recommend it's worth above the rest.
And even this it's certainty proclaims:
That they, whom warm dissention most inflames,
That he commanded these never deny,
E'vn they who will not with his Law comply.
If any yet, to contradict delight,
'Tis questi'oning whether the Snow be white;
For as the Error, here, Sense can refel,
An vniversal concord, these can tell,
Among all Christians that have ever wrote,
Or from the first to last Christ's Doctrine taught,
To which some by their deaths have Attestation brought.
That they did these for their Religion own,
To equal Judges is as clearly shown,
As 'tis that Zen'phon did, or Plato, write,
What does this Age under their names delight:
Who wrote what we to Socrates ascribe,
Or Zeno, Founder of the Stoick Tribe.
*A third rich Magazene of Motives lies,
For the embracing Christian Verities,
I'th'admirable way in which 'twas taught,
And to so far extended Regi'ons brought;
Page 47This brings us to the Author of the Rules.
The chiefest Masters of the Grec'ian Schools,
Confest they nothing with assurance tell,
And fancy'd Truth lay bury'd in a Well,
Our Minds they thought were dim at things divine,
As th'Eyes of Owls when the bright Sun does shine.
Besides, some Vice the best of them did taint,
Some with gross flattery their Princes paint,
Some Brothel's lov'd, and Acti'ons of the dark,
Others with Cynick Impudence would bark;
Clear Proof of their contenti'ous Tempers springs,
From quarrels about words, and trifling things.
In sacred Worship they're discover'd cold;
Since they who but one Deity did hold,
Put mighty slights on him they did adore,
Giving that very Worship unto more,
Such as they knew had no Divinitie,
Thinking from Blame the publick use would free.
Nor were they sure what meed Vertue should have,
And this shew'd Socrates, when nigh his Grave.
Mahomet, Author of far spreading Rites,
As is confest by his own Proselites,
Dissolv'd in Luxury and Lust did live,
Nor left he the least earnest to believe,
That the Rewards he promis'd shall be found,
Perpetua'l Feasts and Lusts for ever crown'd;
When his own Body ne're had Life again,
And does intomb'd at Mecha still remain.
Moses who had the Jews divinely taught,
Tho a brave Man, yet was not free from fault;
When God would send him to th'Egypti'an Land,
He did too long the Embassy withstand;
Page 48And when God promis'd Water from the Rock,
He thought 'twas his Credulity to mock,
And he himself scarce any thing enjoy'd,
Of all that has his Foll'owers Faith employ'd,
In desert places with their Factions tir'd,
Himself debarr'd entring the Land desir'd.
That Christ was sinless his Disciples taught,
Nor was one Proof against it ever brought;
He was th'Example to the Rules he gave,
And executed all that God would have;
Patient of Injuries, and Torments too,
As on the Cross he did most fully shew;
A lover of Mankind, and ev'n of those,
Who to that cruel Death did him expose;
Ev'n for those Miscre'ants he to God did pray,
Nor did he to his Foll'wers Promise pay,
In which himself had not first led the way,
As is not only said, but clearly prov'd.
His Visit, after being from Life remov'd,
How many were there that at large declar'd,
Who him had touch'd, as well as seen, and heard?
The Twelve were Witnesses when he did rise,
And was receiv'd within the joyful Skies,
Where, as appears, a Pow'r supream he gain'd,
From which they whom he left behind obtain'd,
Not only Tongues which they were never taught,
But Pow'r for other things, which Nature never wrought;
All which he promis'd when he left this Life,
And which should silence ev'ry doubtful Strife;
Whether he will, or's able to make good,
What he has promis'd for our Spirit'ual Food.
And hence we gather his Religion's best;
That he perform'd himself what e're he prest,
And was of his own Promises possest.
They're such, that either God his World neglects;
Or we must think the Doctrine from above.
Nothing more worthy of God's care does prove,
Than that what's best should be the farthest spred;
And this of Christ's Religion may be said,
'Tis taught thro' Europe, and ev'n farthest North,
All Asia, with its Islands, know its worth,
Egyptians, Ethiopians, Africans,
Are joyn'd in this with the Americans:
Nor has't been only late, but long ago,
As Hist'ries of successive Ages show,
The Books of Christians, Acts of Synods too:
Among Barbarians a Tradition's known,
Of Miracles by some Apostles shown,
The Lives and Journeys are with them exprest,
Of Thomas, Andrew, and some of the rest.
Clement, Tertullian, and others note,
That Britains, Germans, places most remote,
Did, in their time, Christianity imbrace.
What other Worship e're reach'd such a space?
If you say th'Ethnick's rival in this Fame:
It is not one Religion, but one Name,
Nor ever all of them worship'd the same:
Some Stars, the Elements some did adore,
Some Ani'mals, some what no subsistence bore,
Nor did they the same Law, or Master own.
The Jews, a scatter'd People, were but one;
Nor has their Law been much observ'd to spred,
Since Christ his beams of Truth divine did shed.
Many the Rules of Mahomet obey;
Yet Christians live among them of that way,
And often are more numerous than they:
When in some places where they Christ receive,
Not one Mahometan is known to live.
*Men readily enough Examples take
From Kings, and others who great Figures make,
Especially if Law, and Force, they add;
Hence their encrease th'Ethnick, and Turkish had:
But they, who Christ's, Religion, first profest,
Nothing of Empire, or of Wealth, possest,
As humble in their Fortunes, as in Mind,
Foll'wing mean Trades to which they'd been design'd:
Yet in the space of thirty Years, scarce more,
They this disperst, the Roman Empire o're,
And to the Parthians this, and Indians bore:
And for three Ages only private hands
Did carry on the preaching Christ's Commands,
Without external Promises, or Threats,
Nay ev'n against th'Authority of States;
Yet before Constantine in Christ believ'd,
Thro' most o'th' Roman World he was receiv'd.
Who with the Grecians preach'd up Moral rules,
For other Arts were famous in the Schools;
Plato for th' Art of measuring the Earth,
Peripateticks how the growth, and birth,
Of Animals, and Plants, did Lectures read:
And with what subtilties Disputes proceed
The Stoicks in their labour'd Logicks shew,
The Pythagori'ans th'art of Numbers knew;
Plato, and Zenophon, could charm the Sense,
So Theophrastus, with their Eloquence:
But they who first the Christi'an Doctrine taught,
By no such art upon their Hearers wrought,
Their Speech was simple, without any snare,
They only did in downright terms declare,
What their great Master gave them in command,
And how the Threats and Promises did stand.
Page 51This progress ne're had been from that alone,
But Mir'cles or God's Blessing we must own,
Or both, to carry it so strangely on.
This may be added here,* concerning those
Who first with Christianity did close;
They were not in all other Rites untaught,
So with more ease to that Religion brought:
Much less were they brought up in any way,
Which might dispose them Christ for Lord t'obey,
While Turks and Pagans, and the stubborn Jews,
Had something prev'ous, helping them to chuse:
The last, their Circumcision had before,
And learnt only one Deity t'adore,
Which made them ready Moses to receive:
While they, who in Christ Jesus did believe,
Had many Obstacles which would withdraw,
Custom a second Nature, humane Law,
Parents Authority, all urg'd t'have kept
The way in which their grave Fore-Fathers slept,
Being Jews or Heathens bred, so to remain.
Add to all this the certainty of Pain,
Which they by that Professi'on were to gain,
Pain, which by Nature all Men would refuse,
Nor readily would what procures it chuse.
The Christians long debarr'd from Honours were,
Mulcts, Confiscations, Exiles hard to bear,
Were to be 'counted their appointed share:
These things were light, into the Ballance cast,
With Tortures but too exquisite to last,
Cruel as witty Malice could invent;
And Life was often in the Conflict spent;
As the Histor'ians of those times have wrote,
So many Deaths, no Famime, Plague, or War, has brought.
Page 52Nor were they with the common Deaths to strive;
But put into consuming Flames alive,
Or look'd for Crucifixion, and the like,
Reading, or thoughts of which, with Horror strike:
Thro'out the Roman Empire these did last,
Till their Religion Constantine embrac'd,
Without them but short intervals were past:
Elsewhere they did continue longer still:
Yet all the blood they did so freely spill,
The Church, but with more living seed did fill,
And thus the more was scatterd, more did spring:
If other Rites into the Scales we bring,
The Greeks and other Heathens, us'd the most
Of their admir'd Philosophers to boast,
Bate Socrates, Gymnosophists a few,
Scarce others dying for their way can shew,
And who that thinks can well deny of these,
That in their Deaths the hope of praise did please?
They thought it glor'ous to survive in Fame,
And have Posterity their Deaths proclaim.
While many suff'ring for the Christi'an Name,
Were Men in Fortunes, and Ambition low,
That such Men were, their Neighbours scarce did know,
Women, and tender Virgins, gentle Youths,
With their last Blood bore witness to these Truths.
Who can believe of these, a vain desire,
Or hope of lasting Fame, to this should fire?
Besides our Martyrologies contain,
But a small part of those who thus were slain.
And rarely can the Jews a Martyr boast,
Beyond Antiochus his time at most,
Since Christ's Religion is for this the best,
Is it not to be chose before the rest?
Page 53When the vast Multitudes we duly weigh,
Who did their Lives for this Religion pay,
Each Sex, each sort of Men, in ev'ry Age,
We needs must think some pow'rful cause t'engage;
And what to so great constancy could move,
But Truth, and th'holy Spirit from above?
If by the Arguments already brought,
In some Conviction is not wholly wrought:
Let them consider, Proofs in sev'ral ways,
As is the nature of the thing, one weighs;
One sort does with the Mathematicks suit,
Another when in Physicks we dispute,
One when for Action we would Counsel take,
Diff'rent when Fact does th'only question make:
And this is always yeilded by the Wise,
When no exception 'gainst the Witness lies:
And if we will not this for Proof admit,
We all the use of History must quit,
The most approved Med'cines we must loose,
That Piety too, which does its self diffuse
Where ever Parents are, and Children, known,
For want of Evidence must needs be gone.
It is the pleasure of the Pow'r most high,
The things wherein he'd have our Faith to lie,
That our Obedience it's Reward may gain,
Should not appear so evidently plain,
As things which Sense or Demonstrati'on shew;
Yet as much Light should carry, as is due
For raising a most firm belief, in those,
Who will not pertinaci'ously oppose;
Hence we the Gospel as a Touch-stone find,
To try and prove which is the upright Mind.
For since so many good, so many wise,
Embrac'd so highly [penal] Verities;
Page 54It shews that other's Incredulitie,
Never from a defect of Proofs can be,
But that they would not have that pass for true,
Which their Affecti'ons did so much eschew,
That it was hard, with a regardless Eye
To suffer all that glitters here, to lie;
Which needs must be, if they for truth would hold
All that has been concerning Jesus told,
And therefore would obey the Rules he gave:
An Evidence for this herein we have,
These, many Histories for true receive,
Which they on bare Authority believe,
Of which no Foot-steps at this day are known;
As for the History of Christ, are shown:
This in the Jews Confessi'ons we many trace,
And the Assemblies which these Truths embrace,
Of which some cause we cannot but assign;
Nor can't be any thing below divine:
No humane force could it so long maintain,
And such remote and spreading Conquests gain:
This could proceed from Miracles alone,
But if we are resolv'd them to disown,
That without them it should such force acquire,
Is what we ought much rather to admire.