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The partial Papists would infer from hence Their church, in last resort, should judge the sense. But first they would assume, with wondrous art, Themselves to be the whole, who are but part Of that vast frame, the church: yet grant they were The handers down, can they from thence infer A right to interpret? or would they alone Who brought the present, claim it for their own? The Book's a common largess to mankind, Not more for them than every man design'd; The welcome news is in the letter found, The carrier's not commission'd to expound. It speaks itself, and what it does contain, In all things needful to be known is plain.
In times o'ergrown with rust and ignorance, andreea A gainful trade their clergy did advance; When want of learning kept the layman low, ! And none but priests were authoriz'd to know ; I When what small knowledge was in them did dwell, And he a god who could but read or spell; Then Mother-church did mightily prevail, She parcell'd out the Bible by retail; But still expounded what she sold or gave, To keep it in her power to damn and save : Scripture was scarce, and, as the market went, Poor laymen took salvation on content, As needy men take money, good or bad; God's word they had not, but the priest's they had. Yet, whate'er false conveyances they made, The lawyer still was certain to be paid. In those dark times they learn’d their knack so well, That by long use they grew infallible : At last, a knowing age began to’inquire If they the Book, or that did them inspire ;
And, making narrower search, they found, though
late, That what they thought the priest's was their estate; "Taught by the will produc'd (the written word) How long they had been cheated on record. . Then every man, who saw the title fair, Claim'd a child's part, and put in for a share; Consulted soberly his private good, And say'd himself as cheap as e'er he could.
'Tis true, my friend, (and far be flattery hence This good had full as bad a consequence: The Book thus put in every vulgar hand, Which each presum'd he best could understand, The common rule was made the common prey, And at the mercy of the rabble lay: The tender page with horny fists was galld, And he was gifted most that loudest bawl'd: The Spirit gave the doctoral decree, And every member of a company Was of his trade, and of the Bible, free. Plain truths enough for needful use they found, But men would still be itching to expound : Each was ambitious of the obscurest place, No measure ta'en from knowledge, all from grace: Study and pains were now no more their care, Texts were explain'd by fasting and by pray’r; This was the fruit the private Spirit brought, Occasion'd by great zeal and little thought. While crowds unlearn’d, with rude devotion warm, About the sacred viands buz and swarm, The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood, And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily sects rise up and die; (A thousand more the perish'd race supply:
So all we make of Heaven's discover'd will
What then remains, but, waving each extreme,
Thus have I made my own opinions clear, Yet neither praise expect, nor censure fear; And this unpolish’d, rugged verse I chose, As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose : For while from sacred truth I do not swerve, Tom Sternhold's or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will
THRENODIA AUGUSTALIS :
A FUNERAL PINDARIC POEM,
SACRED TO THE HAPPY MEMORY OF KING CHARLES II.
Fortunati ambo! si quid mea carmina possunt,
Thus long my grief has kept me dumb :
The amazing news of Charles at once were spread; At once the general voice declar'd
Our gracious Prince was dead.' No sickness known before, no slow disease, To soften grief by just degrees; But, like an hurricane on Indian seas, The tempest rose; An unexpected burst of woes; With scarce a breathing-space betwixt, This now becalm’d, and perishing the next. As if great Atlas from his height Should sink beneath his heavenly weight, And with a mighty flaw, the flaming wall (As once it shall), (whelm this nether ball; Should gape immense, and, rushing down, o’verSo swift and so surprising was our fear: Our Atlas fell indeed; but Hercules was near.
His pious brother,* sure the best
* James, Duke of York.