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Unanimous they all commit the care
And management of this main enterprise
To him, their great dictator, whose attempt
At first against mankind so well had thriv'd
In Adam's overthrow, and led their march
From Hell's deep vaulted den to dwell in light,
Regents, and potentates, and kings, yea gods,
Of many a pleasant realm and province wide.
So to the coast of Jordan he directs
His easy steps, girded with snaky wiles,
Where he might likeliest find this new-declar'd,
This man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on him to try;
So to subvert whom he suspected rais'd
To end his reign on earth, so long enjoyed:
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfill'd
The purpos'd counsel, pre-ordain'd and fix'd,
Of the most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of Angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake.
*Gabriel, this day by proof thou shalt behold, 130
Thou and all Angels conversant on earth
With man or men's affairs, how I begin
To verify that solemn message, late
On which I sent thee to the Virgin pure
In Galilee, that she should bear à son,
Great in renown, and call'd the Son of God;.

Then told'st her, doubting how these things could be
To her a virgin, that on her should come

The Holy Ghost, and the pow'r of the High'est
O'ershadow her: this man, born and now up-grown,
To show him worthy of his birth divine
And high prediction, henceforth I expose
To Satan: let him tempt, and now assay
His utmost subtlety, because he boasts
And vaunts of his great cunning to the throng
Of his apostacy: he might have learnt
Less overweening, since he fail'd in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.
He now shall know I can produce a man,

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Of female seed, far abler to resist
All his solicitations, and at length

All his vast force, and drive him back to Hell,
Winning by conquest, what the first man lost
By fallacy surpris'd. But first I mean
To exercise him in the wilderness;
There he shall first lay down the rudiments
Of his great warfare, ere I send him forth
To conquer Sin and Death, the two grand foes,
By humiliation and strong sufferance:
His weakness shall o'ercome Satanic strength,
And all the world, and mass of sinful flesh,
That all the Angels and ethereal Powers,
They now, and men hereafter, may discern,
From what consummate virtue I have chose
This perfect man, by merit call'd my Son,
To earn salvation for the sons of men."

So spake th' eternal Father, and all Heav'n
Admiring stood a space, then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures mov'd,
Circling the throne and singing, while the hand
Sung with the voice, and this the argument.

"Victory' and triumph to the Son of God,
Now ent'ring his great duel, not of arms,
But to vanquish by wisdom hellish wiles!
The Father knows the Son; therefore secure
Ventures his filial virtue, though untry'd,
Against whate'er may tempt, whate'er seduce,
Allure, or terrify, or undermine.
Be frustrate, all ye stratagems of Hell,
And, devilish machinations, come to nought!"

So they in Heav'n their odes and vigils tan'd:
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodg'd in Bethabara, where John baptiz'd,
Musing, and much revolving in his breast,
How best the mighty work he might begin
Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first
Publish his god-like office, now mature,
One day forth walk'd alone, the Spirit leading
And his deep thoughts, the better to converse
Vol. II.
B

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With solitude, till, far from track of men,

Thought following thought, and step by step led on,
He enter'd now the bord'ring desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environ'd round,
His holy meditations thus pursu❜d.

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"O what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awaken'd in me swarm, while I consider
What from within I feel myself, and hear
What from without comes often to my ears,
Ill sorting with my present state compar'd!
When I was yet a child, no childish play
To me was pleasing; all my mind was set
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do,
What might be public good; myself I thought
Born to that end, born to promote all truth,
All righteous things: therefore, above my years,
'The law of God I read, and found it sweet,
Made it my whole delight, and in it grew

To such perfection, that, ere yet my age
Had measur'd twice six years, at our great feast 210
I went into the temple, there to hear

The teachers of our law, and to propose

What might improve my knowledge or their own;
And was admir'd by all: yet this not all
To which my spi'rit aspir'd; victorious deeds
Flam'd in my heart, heroic acts; one while
To rescue Israel from the Roman yoke;
Then to subdue and quell, o'er all the earth,
Brute violence and proud tyrannic power,
Till truth were freed, and equity restor❜d:
Yet held it more humane, more heav'nly, first
By winning words to conquer willing hearts,
And make persuasion do the work of fear;
At least to try, and teach the erring soul,
Not wilfully mis-doing, but unware
Misled; the stubborn only to subdue.

These growing thoughts my mother soon perceiving
By words at times cast forth, inly rejoic'd,
And said to me a part; 'High are thy thoughts,
O Son, But nourish them, and let them soar

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To what height sacred virtue and true worth
Can raise them, though above example high;
By matchless deeds express thy matchless sire,
For know, thou art no son of mortal man;
Though men esteem thee low of parentage,
Thy father is th' eternal King who rules
All Heav'n and Earth, Angels, and Sons of men;
A messenger from God foretold thy birth
Conceiv'd in me a virgin; he foretold

Thou should'st be great, and sit on David's throne,
And of thy kingdom there should be no end.
At thy nativity, a glorious quire

Of Angels, in the fields of Bethlehem, sung
To shepherds, watching at their folds by night,
And told them the Messiah now was born,
Where they might see him, and to thee they came,
Directed to the manger where thou lay'st,
For in the inn was left no better room:
A star, not seen before, in Heav'n appearing,
Guided the wise men thither from the east,
To honour thee with incense, myrrh, and gold;
By whose bright course led on they found the place,
Affirming it thy star, new grav'n in Heav'n,
By which they knew the king of Israel born.
Just Simeon and prophetic Anna, warn'd
By vision, found thee in the temple', and spake,
Before the altar and the vested priest,

Like things of thee to all that present stood,'-
This having heard, straight I again revolv'd
The law and prophets, searching what was writ 260
Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes

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Known partly, and soon found, of whom they spake
I am; this chiefly, that my way must lie
Through many a hard assay, ev'n to the death,
Ere I the promis'd kingdom can attain,
Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins
Full weight must be transferr'd upon my head.
Yet, neither thus dishearten'd or dismay'd,
The time prefix'd I waited; when behold
The Baptist, (of whose birth I oft had heard,

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Not knew by sight.) now come, who was to come
Before Messiah, and his way prepare!
I, as all others, to his baptism came,
Which I believ'd was from above; but he

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Straight knew me, and with loudest voice proclaim'd
Me him, (for it was shown him so from Heav'n,)
Me him, whose harbinger he was; and first
Refus'd on me his baptism to confer,

As much his greater, and was hardly won:
But, as I rose out of the laving stream,
Heav'n open'd her eternal doors, from whence
The Spirit descended on me like a dove ;
And last, the sum of all, my Father's voice,
Audibly heard from Heav'n, pronounc'd me his,
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone
He was well pleas'd; by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes,
Th' authority which I deriv'd from Heav'n.
And now by some strong motion I am led
Into this wilderness, to what intent
I learn not yet; perhaps I need not know,
For what concerns my knowledge God reveals."
So spake our Morning Star, then in his rise,
And, looking round, on every side beheld
A pathless desert, dusk with horrid shades;
The way he came not having mark'd, return
Was difficult, by human steps untrod;

And he still on was led, but with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come
Lodg'd in his breast, as well might recommend
Such solitude before choicest society.
Full forty days he pass'd, whether on hill
Sometimes, anon in shady vale, each night
Under the covert of some ancient oak,
Or cedar, to defend him from the dew,
Or harbour'd in one cave, is not reveal'd;
Nor tasted human food, nor hunger felt,
Till those days ended; hunger'd then at last
Among wild beasts: they at his sight grew mild, 310

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