Grotius, his arguments for the truth of Christian religion rendred into plain English verse.
Grotius, Hugo, 1583-1645., Virgil. Bucolica. 4. English.
TO see Mens Perils while we sit at ease,*
Is what does to much Human Nature please;
But it becomes us Christi'ans to rejoyce,
Not only at our happiness of choice;
But to endeavour, to our Pow'r, to free
Those who are tost in Errors stormy Sea,
And to have them our Happiness partake,
T'wards this great end the former Books did make;
Because the proof of Truth doth that expose,
Which do's it self against that Truth oppose.
But since all other Worships that are known,
The Pagan, Jewish, that the Turks do own,
Besides the Errors common unto all,
Have each what to its proper share do fall,
And against ours, in diff'rent methods fight;
I think I shall do Truth the greatest right,
If I of each make the dispute entire;
Which doing, of the Readers I desire,
That laying all Parti'ality aside,
And what e're Customs long have held them ty'd,
They'd use unbyass'd judgment for their Guide;
While with us such Impediments have place,
We go with Fetters unto Truth's embrace.
First then, against the Pagans we dispute,*
And these we did before enough confute,
Page 74If they believe more than one Pow'r above,
In an eternal equal state to move;
We having shew'd only one God to reign,
Who all things of himself did first ordain;
If of created Minds their God they make,
Either for good, or bad, we these must take:
If good they say; First, let them have a care,
Lest they are cheated with a Name so fair.
For it is very dang'rous erring there;
Lest Foes they take for Friends, and those that fell,
Instead of those who should God's Pleasure tell:
In Reason too we should some diff'rence find
For Worship paid to them, and the first Mind:
Let's know what order is assign'd to each,
What good respectively to us they reach:
That we may judg what Honour the great King
Intends we to those lower Pow'rs should bring:
Since none of these they can pretend to know:
This how uncertain is their way may show;
How much more certain they were not to err,
If to the Chief this Worship they transfer:
This Plato held the duty of the Wise;
This does he with more confidence advise:
Since the good Minds be'ing Servants to the Best,
If him they please they may securely rest,
Of their good Offices they can't but be possest.
*Then no flight Arguments belief perswade,
That unto devil Spirits Pagans pray'd.
First, that their Followers they did not bring
Unto the Worship of th'eternal King;
Nay, did his Worship what they could impair,
Or strove with him to have an equal share:
Page 75Then they did strongly Magistrates incite,
Against the Men who worship'd God alright;
And the misguided Rabble urg'd their pains:
When yet the Poets in licenti'ous strains,
With Parricides and Rapes their Gods did charge:
And Epicurus, that things go at large,
Without the Conduct of a Pow'r Supream,
Was hold to make the subject of his Theam.
And the most diff'rent Rites one Compound made,
Aegyptian, Phrygian, Greek together laid,
The Thuscan too, they did at Rome perswade.
They ridicul'd the Jewish way alone;
As is i'th'Epigrams and Satyrs shown,
And sometimes Banishments shortned their Woes:
Then against Christi'ans Persecuti'ons rose;
Of which the only cause to be assign'd,
Is, that they worship'd the Eternal Mind;
That thus the Gods they serv'd their Honours lost,
Fearful of him alone who all engrost.
The third Exception's taken from the way,
In which they worshipt those they did obey,
Such as could never please an honest Mind.
Thus there we humane Sacrifices find;
Themselves in Temples naked Men expose,
And Lewdness reign'd in their most solemn shows;
These Rites now in America proceed,
And Africa these Monsters still does breed:
Nay, further yet, those there have been, and are,
Who worship Minds which evil they declare.
Thus Ariman a God the Persians made,
And Greeks to Cacodaemons worship paid:
The Latins to Vejov's, and Indians yet,
With Ethiop'ans to such Pow'rs submit.
Page 76And what more truly imp'ous can be found?
For of Religious Worship what's the ground?
But the belief of Goodness we admire,
Which we t' express i'th' humblest way desire:
If a known evil Spirit this receive,
Our selves the lye to our own Worship give.
This too no less than Treason must be thought,
When th'Honour which due to our King is taught,
Is not withdrawn alone, but giv'n to those,
Who are his Rebels, or at least his Foes.
But they are sottish, who e're count upon't,
That a good God will not avenge th' Affront:
They should consider that his Clemency,
And Justice no less infinite, agree;
Where bold-fac'd Wickedness all bounds exceeds,
Justice, as of necessity, proceeds.
Nor do they less deserve Rebukes to bear,
Who say they only worship out of Fear;
When He whom we believe supreamly good,
Is, as communicative, understood,
And thence from Him all other Natures rose;
From whence this Consequence directly flows:
That the does use an Absolute Command,
O're all these Workmanships of his own hand;
So that from none of them can that proceed,
But he at his free Pleasure could impede;
Which being granted, we collect with ease,
Who e're our God so great, so good, does please,
Can ne're from evil Spirits have that hurt,
Which to good purposes God won't convert;
Nor can the evil Spirits that command,
Which we should not on that account withstand;
Page 77For when the guise of Good the Evil bear,
Then ought we of their slights the more beware,
The Gifts of Enemies deceitful are.
Some there have been,* and yet are known t'have pray'd,
To Men whose Honours in the Dust are laid:
This Worship should have proper marks assign'd,
Distinct from what is paid the Sov'raig Mind,
And thence some good we should expect to find;
But this their Worshippers could never shew,
Not knowing what these Souls departed do.
But against this we chiefly should inveigh,
That many Men to whom they this did pay,
Were more than others for some Vices fam'd,
And thus for Drunkenness is Bacchus nam'd;
For Lust thus did their Hercules surpass;
Against his Brother Rom'lus impious was;
And so against his Father was their Jove;
So that the Honour paid to them, would prove
A great Reproach to the true God above;
Who does in Probity chiefly delight:
Against it self they make Religion fight;
While what should scatter Vice with conqu'ring Rays,
Is taught to flatter it with its own Praise.
The Stars and Elements ev'n long before,*
Fire, Water, Air, and Earth Men did adore:
But nothing is more brutish than this way:
Since the chief part of Worship is to pray,
Th'Objects of this should have Intelligence;
That th'Elements have none is plain to Sense.
If any say Stars are with this endu'd;
The ground of such their Fancy ne're was shew'd,
Page 78By th'Operations, which their Natures tell,
We cannot judg that this to them befel;
Nay, the unalter'd Course in which they move,
The contrary with mighty strength does prove;
This argues they no freedom have of Will,
But do another's Purposes fulfil;
We their subserviency to Man have shew'd,
Whence we should think our selves the best endu'd,
Our better part unto our God more near,
And for that likeness, unto more dear:
Therefore our selves we ought not to debase,
To what's subjected to us through God's Grace;
Off'rings of Praise for them by us are brought,
Which how to pay the never can be taught.
*Some in their Worship lower yet do fall,
And thus on Beasts for Aid Aegypti'ans call:
A shew of Reason some may seem to share,
What it't when we with Man's would it com∣pare?
And their Concepti'ons, whatsoe're they frame,
Ne're from within by words, or writing, came,
Their Works in kind, and manner, are the same.
Numbers and Measures can they comprehend?
Or how the Course o'th'Heavenly Host does bend?
Man on the other side, of strength but small,
Into his Snares makes Birds, Beasts, Fishes, fall,
These by his Wit he brings under his Law,
Ev'n Elephants and Lions keeps in awe,
Horses and Oxen makes together draw;
Things the most nox'ious useful to him makes;
And thus from Serpents wholsome Med'cines takes;
Their Bodies frame, and scite of ev'ry part,
Unknown to them, do not escape his Art:
Page 79Thence he the use and worth of them can tell,
What Species, and what Genus, each befel:
Then he the Structure of's own Body views,
Which him by far the nobler Creature shews:
Whoe're compare aright, so far will be
From thinking one of these a Deitie,
Him he would rather think God did ordain,
As a vicari'ous Pow'r o're hem to reign.
Latins, and Greeks, we find, Devoti'on paid,*
To what of no Subsistence Nature made,
But were meer Accidents to things that were;
Impudence, Fever, and the like, to spare:
Health, which in this did much more justly share,
But a true temp'rament of parts we find:
Fortune, that Deity acknowledg'd blind,
Is but a set of Chances to one's Mind:
Th'Affections, Anger, Fear, warm Hope, and Love,
Or others which from Good, or Ill, do move,
As we consider them remote, or nigh,
Chiefly i'th'moti'ons of the Blood do lie,
As th'Animal Spirits carry'd thence are known,
Of these none have a motion of their own,
But on the Empire of the Will depend,
At least for their Direction, and their End.
Of Virtues Worshippers with them were seen;
Prudence, which lies in choice of the right mean,
When we pursue what's represented good;
The braving Dangers, counted Fortitude:
Justice, in keeping from another's right,
And Temp'rance moderating our delight;
These Dispositions unto Good we find,
Setled by a long Custom in the Mind,
Page 80But these, as they encrease, so may decay,
And, much neglected, vanish quite away:
Honour, to which they oft did Temples raise,
Is known to lie but in another's Praise,
This oft the Good have mist, the Bad receiv'd,
So easie 'tis for Man to be deceiv'd!
Since no Subsistence then these have at all;
And so below things of Subsistence fall;
Nor can these understand the zealous Pray'r,
With which our Rev'rence of them we declare,
To worship such Reason must disallow:
Rather to Him we should devoutly bow,
Who only gives, and can to us preserve,
What we the most to be admir'd observe.
*But then to Miracles Pagans appeal
As if the Truth these of their Worship seal:
Whereas we may with Justice them suspect:
Their Sages many, as unprov'd, reject.
Night and Retirement were for some the Scene,
To others but few Witnesses have been,
Such as with ease night swallow down a Cheat,
From subtle Priests, well practis'd in Deceit:
Not knowing Nature many did admire,
And qualities occult their search did tire;
With admiration thus some Load-stones saw
To its embrace the distant Iron draw:
Simon did in these Arts successful prove;
And thence did Apollonius wonder move.
Some things by such we must effected own,
Which have a Pow'r more than of Nature shown,
Or what Man could draw forth from that alone;〈1 page missing〉
Page 81Yet these do not imply a Pow'r Divine,
To which we should Omnipotence assigne:
But intermedi'ate Spir'its for this suffice,
Higher than Men, yet under Deities,
Who being very nimble, strong, and wise,
May bring together what remote does lie,
And thence compose things wondrous to the Eye;
But that these Spirits cannot good be thought,
Their Worship therefore bad, before was taught:
And this against their Venerati'on Arms,
That Men pretend to force them down with Charms;
When yet the wisest Heathens own it plain,
That words the pow'r but of Perswasi'on gain,
And that according as their Sense we find.
This proof may of their pravity be joy'nd,
That oft they promiss'd him or her to move,
Against their Inclination, unto Love;
Injuri'ous in the Promise, or Command,
And Humane Laws such Acts with Sorc'ery brand.
Nor is it strange, if he whom we adore
With the Delusi'ons of ill Spirits bore,
To punish the who fell from him before.
But then this may their Impotence perswade,
That none had signal ben'fit by their Aid:
If any thence return'd to Life again,
They ne're were known in Life long to remain;
Nor could they act like those who Life enjoy'd.
If e're a Pow'r divine did seem imploy'd,
It never was foretold that this was done,
That Men might into that Religion run:
And nothing hinders but the Pow'r divine,
Might have, what greatly differs, in design.
As for Example, If one should believe,
That to one blind Vespasian fight did give,
Page 82'Twas that he Reputation might acquire,
To gain that Pow'r to which he did aspire,
He being one whom God before did chuse,
To execute his Judgments on the Jews.
For other Prodigies like cause might be,
In which we nothing of Religion see.
*What was before observ'd we may apply,
When on their Oracles they would rely:
Chiefly that God may Cheats on them permit,
Who nat'ral Light, or old Tradition quit.
And generally 'twas doubtful what was meant,
The words complying with what e're event:
If any thing more plainly was foretold;
A Pow'r divine for this we need not hold;
From nat'ral Causes known it might proceed;
Physicians thus known how Diseases breed:
Much comes from due observing what has past,
For which th'experienc'd need no Figure cast.
But if by Pagan Prophets e're was shown,
What had dependance on God's Will alone,
No cause of which besides that e're was known;
It was not to confirm one Pagan Rite,
But rather it against them all did fight.
Thus Virgil, not discerning what was meant,
In his fourth Eclogue, yet, did represent,
What some old Sybils scatter'd leaves did shew,
*Of Christ, and the great Benefits t'ensue.
Those Leaves to shelter noble Fruit were made,
While they an universal King did shade,
Whom to obey if we'd be happy they perswade:
That he who of this Pow'r should be possest,
Should make his Progress from the brightned East.
And Porphiry an Oracle does name,
Where th'Hebrew God Apollo does proclaim,
Page 83To be the only God the World should fear,
While others vanish'd into empty Air:
If this Apollo's Votaries obey'd,
Even his own Worship must aside be laid:
But if their Worship still they paid at large;
They'd their own Deity with falshood charge.
If by their Oracles these Spir'its design'd,
Any advantages to humane kind;
Some certain Rule of Life they needs must give,
In following which Men happily might live:
Yet they nor Rule, nor Happiness, propound,
With which their blind Devotos might be crow'd:
Nay, on the contrary, we've often found,
They in their Verses worst of Kings did praise,
And Wrestlers unto sacred Honours raise;
Unto unlawful Loves they did incite,
And catching Wealth without regard to Right,
Encourag'd Slaughters, and a vici'ous Train,
The bare reciting which, our Leaves would strain.
This against Paganism strong proof supplies,*
That it on humane Force so much relies,
That whensoe're that was no on its side,
As if through that it stood, it quickly dy'd:
But where Christi'anity, or Turcism, reign'd,
Only in story th'Ethnick Rites remain'd;
When yet Christianity was known to grow,
Ev'n with the Blood did from its Martyrs flow.
This Conquest's gain'd in spite of all the Pow'rs
Of the enrag'd, and bloody Emperours.
Nor could learn'd Julian's Wit keep up their way,
But sensibly it fell into decay,
Nor Force, nor high Descent, against it brought;
A Carpenter, the Founder's Father, thought;
Page 84Nor did that way which made all others fail,
With flow'rs of Rhet'rick on Men's Minds prevail;
None of these Ornaments their Speech did grace,
Who first perswaded Men Christ to embrace:
Of Gifts, they being poor, made no pretence,
Nor mov'd by Flatteries to tender Sense:
Nay, they declar'd that Pleasures they must shun,
And for that Law all worldly hazards run:
And this subdu'd not Paganism alone,
But ev'n the Spirits which did that Worship own,
Christ's Name of them Mens Bodies dispossest,
And their known Voices they at that comprest:
And being ask'd, why then they silent were?
They were against themselves forc'd to declare,
That where Christ was invok'd their Pow'r dissolv'd to Air.
*Some, hardly worth the labour to confute,
Unto the Influ'ence of Stars impute
The rise, and progress, of Religious Rites:
But this their Science no known Rule unites,
And all the certainty which there is known,
Is that from Stars there's nothing certain shown:
But none of those effects I here do mean,
Of which some necessary cause hath been,
According to the Law which Nature gave,
But what the Will of Man for causes have,
Which being of its self entirely free,
Can't from abroad receive necessity:
But if th'Impressi'on from without's so strong,
That the meere passive Will is forc'd along;
In vain was giv'n that grateful pow'r of Mind,
Which we in choice, after consid'ring, find,
The Equity of Laws could not but cease:
From all Rewards and Penalty's that frees;
Page 85For where the Act is necessary found,
What fault to punish; Merit to be crown'd?
Besides some Acti'ons of the humane Will,
Justly deserve the Character of ill;
But if of these Heav'n were the proper Mint,
As heav'nly Bodies God did so imprint,
That they compel the Act we seem to chuse;
Of causing Moral Ill 'twould God accuse,
Who must be thought in full perfection good:
Besides his hate to Ill is understood,
By his known Law which does from that disswade;
But if he it inevitable made,
By an effective Pow'r himself Instill'd:
'Twould shew as if things contrary he will'd;
That the same thing should, and should not be done,
While by his impulse into Sin we run.
Some, with more probability, declare,
That Stars first influence the ambi'ent Air,
Our Bodies this; and qualities conveys,
Which in our Minds such kind of Passi'ons raise;
That these often entice the yeilding Will,
And their Commands it often does fulfil:
Suppose that this were granted ne're so clear;
'Twould nothing make to help the questi'on here;
For Christ's Religion doth withdraw the Mind,
From things to which the Body is inclin'd:
How the could bodily Affecti'ons move,
The Christian way of Worship to approve?
And how could Stars to cause its rise be thought,
When they only by those Affecti'ons wrought?
Whatever Laws to Men the Stars would give;
The wise and good exempted from them live:
Wisest Astrologers do this confess;
And wise were they who first did Christ profess:
Page 86But if in Learning any force we see,
From the Contagi'on of the Flesh to free;
Such among Christians have been ever known,
Who in this Praise to flourish, all must own:
Besides the learned in the Syd'ral Arts,
Own the Effects reach but to certain parts,
And those Effects but temporary are;
When this Religion yet has lasted fair,
One thousand and six hundred Years, and more,
It's Praises eccho'd forth from Shoar to Shoar,
In distant Regions stretch'd out ne're so far,
Whatever the Positi'on of the ruling Star.
*This to Christian'ty may Trophies raise,
That every part shines with such piercing Rays,
Does with so fair a Countenance delight,
That it convinces with its Native Light:
So that enough we among Pagans find,
Out of whose Sayings in one System joy'nd,
All our Religious Truths we might descry:
As that Religion don't in Rituals lie,
But th'Efficacy in the Mind to place:
Adultery to lie in wish't embrace:
Not to repay the Wrongs which we receive:
One Wife, one Husband, should together live;
The Bond perpetual which does them unite:
That this, Man's Office which should most delight,
To do to Men what good is in his pow'r,
Chiefly where sharp necessities devour:
From Oaths as much as may be to forbear;
To be content for Clothing and for Fare,
With what the needs of Nature do require.
But where Christian'ty still rises higher,
And diffidence with wonder seems to strike,
We with the wisest Pagans find the like.
Page 87What of the Souls immortal State they hold,
And Life returning unto Bodies cold,
We shew'd before. Plato of Caldees taught,
Of the Divin'ity this distinction thought,
The Father and the filial Mind, from whom
He held the Universe at first to come:
He adds a Mind which over-spreads the whole.
Nor does sly Julian their Belief controul,
Who think the Humane Nature with Divine,
Might to compose a single Person joyn:
Such he believ'd that A soulapius was,
Whom he would have from Heav'n in dircetly pass,
To teach Mankind the helpful Art of Cures;
Who sees not what offence Christ's Cross pro∣cures?
Yet Heathens in their Gods the like things brook:
Some we find Servants, others Thunder-struck;
Some into pieces cut, Wounds others took;
Their wisest held a good Man's Joys the most,
When him his Honesty the dearest cost.
Plato, as if what was to come he found,
Says, If we a true Pattern would propound,
It must be one whose Vertue is despoil'd
Of all those Ornaments with which it smil'd:
He must be wicked thought, expos'd to scorn;
A shameful Death must after all be born.
Patience exemplify'd unto the height,
Must by such Instances as these incite.