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Stiff in the letter, lax in the design
And import of their oracles divine ;
Their learning legendary, false, absurd,
And yet exalted above God's own word ;
They drew a curse from an intended good,
Puff’d up with gifts they never understood.
He judg’d them with as terrible a frown,
As if not love, but wrath had brought him down:
Yet he was gentle as soft summer airs,
Had grace for others' sins, but none for theirs ;
Through all he spoke a noble plainness ran-
Rhet'ric is artifice, the work of man ;
And tricks and turns, that fancy may devise,
Are far too mean for him that rules the skies.
The’ astonish'd vulgar trembled while he toré
The mask from faces never seen before;
He stripp'd th' impostors in the noonday sun,
Show'd that they follow'd all they seem'd to shun;
Their prayers made public, their excesses kept
As private as the chambers where they slept;
The temple and its holy rites profan'd
By mumm'ries, he that dwelt in it disdain'd;
Uplifted hands, that at convenient times
Could act extortion and the worst of crimes,
Wash'd with a neatness scrupulously nice,
And free from ev'ry taint but that of vice.
Judgment, however tardy, mends her pace
When Obstinacy once has conquer'd Grace.
They saw distemper heald, and life restor'd,
In answer to the fiat of his word;
Confessd the wonder, and with daring tongue
Blasphem'd the authority from which it sprung
They knew by sure prognostics seen on high,
The future tone and temper of the sky;
But, grave dissemblers ! could not understand
That Sin let loose speaks Punishment at hand.
Ask now of history's authentic page,
And call up evidence from every age ;
Display with busy and laborious hand
The blessings of the most indebted land ;
What nation will you find, whose annals prove
So rich an intrest in almighty love?
Where dwell they now, where dwelt in ancient day
A people planted, water'd, blest as they?
Let Egypt's plagues and Canaan's woes proclaim
The favours pour'd upon the Jewish name ;
Their freedom purchas'd for them, at the cost
Of all their hard oppressors valued most ;
Their title to a country not their own
Made sure by prodigies till then unknown ;
For them the states they left made waste and void ;
For them the states, to which they went, destroy'd ;
A cloud to measure out their march by day,
By night a fire to cheer the gloomy way;
That moving signal summoning when best,
Their host to move, and when it stay'd, to rest.
For them the rocks dissolv'd into a flood,
The dews condens'd into angelic food,
Their very garments sacred, old yet new,
And Time forbid to touch them as he flew;
Streams swell’d above the bank, enjoin'd to stand,
While they pass'd through to their appointed land;
Their leader, arm'd with meekness, zeal, and love,
And grac'd with clear credentials from above ;
Themselves secur'd beneath the Almighty wing ;
Their God their captain,* lawgiver, and king;
Crown'd with a thousand victries, and at last
Lords of the conquer'd soil, there rooted fast,
In peace possessing what they won by war,
Their name far publish'd, and rever'd as far;
Where will you find a race like theirs, endow'd
With all that man e'er wishi’d, or Heav'n bestow'd ?
They, and they only, amongst all mankind,
Ideceiv'd the transcript of the Eternal Mind;
Were trusted with his own engraven laws,
And constituted guardians of his cause;
Theirs were the prophets, theirs the priestly call,
And theirs by birth the Saviour of us all.
In vain the nations, that had seen them rise
With fierce and envious, yet admiring eyes,
Had sought to crush them, guarded as they were
By pow'r divine, and skill that could not err.
Had they maintain’d allegiance firm and sure,
And kept the faith immaculate and pure,
Then the proud eagles of all-conquering Rome
Had found one city not to be o'ercome ;
And the twelve standards of the tribes unfurl'd
Had bid defiance to the warring world.
But grace abus'd brings forth the foulest deeds,
As richest soil the most luxuriant weeds.
Curd of the golden calves, their father's sin,
They set up self, that idol god within ;
View'd a Deliv’rer with disdain and hate,
Who left them still a tributary state ;
Seiz'd fast his hand, held out to set them free
From a worse yoke, and nail'd it to the tree:
There was the consummation and the crown,
The flow'r of Israel's infamy full blown ;
'Thence date their sad declension and their fall,
Their woes not yet repeald, thence date them all.
Thus fell the best instructed in her day, And the most favour'd land, look where we may. Philosophy indeed on Grecian eyes Had pour'd the day, and clear'd the Roman skies ; In other climes perhaps creative Art, With pow'r surpassing theirs, performed her part, Might give more life to marble, or might fill The glowing tablets with a juster skill, Might shine in fable, and grace idle themes With all the embroidery of poetic dreams ; 'Twas theirs alone to dive into the plan, That Truth and Mercy had reveal'd to man; And while the World beside, that plan unknown, Defied useless wood, or senseless stone, They breath'd in faith their well-directed pray’rs, And the true God, the God of truth, was theirs.
Their glory faded, and their race dispers’d, The last of nations now, though once the first; They warn and teach the proudest, would they
learn, Keep wisdom, or meet vengeance in your turn : If we escap'd not, if Heav'n spar'd not us, Peeld, scatter'd, and exterminated thus ; If Vice receiv'd her retribution due, When we were visited, what hope for you? When God arises with an awful frown To punish lust, or pluck presumption down; When gifts perverted, or not duly priz’d, Pleasure o’ervalued, and his grace despis’d, Provoke the vengeance of his righteous hand, To pour down wrath upon a thankless land; He will be found impartially severe, Too just to wink, or speak the guilty clear.
Oh Israel, of all nations most undone!
Thy diadem displac’d, thy sceptre gone;
Thy temple, once thy glory, fall'n and ras'd,
And thou a worshipper e’en were thou mayst;
Thy services, once only without spot,
Mere shadows now, their ancient pomp forgot ;
Thy Levites, once a consecrated host,
No longer Levites, and their lineage lost.
And thou thyself o'er ev'ry country sown,
With none on Earth that thou canst call thine own ;
Cry aloud, thou, that sittest in the dust,
Cry to the proud, the cruel, and unjust ;
Knock at the gates of nations, rouse their fears ;
Say wrath is coming, and the storm appears ;
But raise the shrillest cry in British ears.
What ails thee, restless as the vaves that roar,
And fling their foam against thy chalky shore ?
Mistress, at least while Providence shall please,
And trident-bearing queen of the wide seas-
Why, having kept good faith, and often shown
Friendship and truth to others, find'st thou none?
Thou that hast set the persecuted free,
None interposes now to succour thee.
Countries indebted to thy pow'r, that shine
With light deriv'd from thee, would smother thine :
Thy very children watch for thy disgrace-
A lawless brood, and curse thee to thy face,
Thy rulers load thy credit, year by year,
With sums Peruvian mines could never clear ;
As if, like arches built with skilful hand,
The more 'twere press'd the firmer it would stand.
The cry in all thy ships is still the same,
Speed us away to battle and to fame.