Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Their city, his temple, and his holy ark,
With all his sacred things, a scorn and prey
To that proud city, whose high walls thou saw'st
Left in confusion, Babylon thence call'd.
There in captivity he lets them dwell

The space of seventy years, then brings them back,
Remembering mercy and his covenant sworn
To David, stablish'd as the days of heaven.
Return'd from Babylon by leave of kings,
Their lords, whom God disposed, the house of God
They first re-edify, and for a while

In mean estate live moderate, till, grown
In wealth and multitude, factious they grow:
But first among the priests dissension springs,
Men who attend the altar, and should most
Endeavour peace: their strife pollution brings
Upon the temple itself; at last they seize
The sceptre, and regard not David's sons;
Then lose it to a stranger, that the true
Anointed King Messiah might be born
Barr'd of his right; yet at his birth a star,
Unseen before in heaven, proclaims him come,
And guides the eastern sages, who inquire
His place, to offer incense, myrrh, and gold
His place of birth a solemn angel tells

To simple shepherds, keeping watch by night;
They gladly thither haste, and by a choir
Of squadron'd angels hear his carol sung.

A Virgin is his mother, but his sire

The power of the Most High; he shall ascend
The throne hereditary, and bound his reign

With earth's wide bounds, his glory with the heavens.
He ceased, discerning Adam, with such joy
Surcharged, as had like grief been dew'd in tears,
Without the vent of words, which these he breath'd:
O prophet of glad tidings, finisher

Of utmost hope! now clear I understand

What oft my steadiest thoughts have search'd in vain,
Why our great Expectation should be call'd

The seed of woman: Virgin Mother, hail,
High in the love of Heaven, yet from my loins
Thou shalt proceed, and from thy womb the Son
Of God Most High; so God with man unites.
Needs must the serpent now his capital bruise
Expect with mortal pain: say where and when
Their fight, what stroke shall bruise the Victor's heel.
To whom thus Michael: Dream not of their fight,
As of a duel, or the local wounds

Of head or heel: not therefore joins the Son
Manhood to Godhead, with more strength to foil
Thy enemy; nor so is overcome

Satan, whose fall from heaven, a deadlier bruise,

Disabled not to give thee thy death's wound;
Which he, who comes thy Saviour, shall recure,
Not by destroying Satan, but his works
In thee, and in thy seed: nor can this be,
But by fulfilling that which thou didst want,
Obedience to the law of God, imposed
On penalty of death, and suffering death,
The penalty to thy transgression due,

And due to theirs, which out of thine will grow :
So only can high justice rest appaid.
The law of God exact he shall fulfil,
Both by obedience and by love, though love
Alone fulfil the law; thy punishment
He shall endure, by coming in the flesh
To a reproachful life and cursed death,
Proclaiming life to all who shall believe
In his redemption, and that his obedience
Imputed becomes theirs by faith, his merits
To save them, not their own, though legal, works.
For this he shall live hated, be blasphemed,
Seized on by force, judged, and to death condemn'd,
A shameful and accursed, nail'd to the cross
By his own nation, slain for bringing life :
But to the cross he nails thy enemies,
The law that is against thee, and the sins
Of all mankind, with him there crucified,
Never to hurt them more who rightly trust
In this his satisfaction. So he dies,
But soon revives, death over him no power
Shall long usurp; ere the third dawning light,
Return, the stars of morn shall see him rise
Out of his grave, fresh as the dawning light,
Thy ransom paid, which man from death redeems,
His death for man, as many as offer'd life
Neglect not, and the benefit embrace

By faith not void of works. This godlike act
Annuls thy doom, the death thou shouldst have died,

In sin for ever lost from life; this act

Shall bruise the head of Satan, crush his strength,
Defeating Sin and Death, his two main arms,
And fix far deeper in his head their stings,

Than temporal death shall bruise the Victor's heel,
Or theirs whom he redeems, a death, like sleep,
A gentle wafting to immortal life.

Nor after resurrection shall he stay

Longer on earth than certain times to appear
To his disciples, men who in his life

Still follow'd him; to them shall leave in charge
To teach all nations what of him they learn'd
And his salvation; them who shall believe
Baptizing in the profluent stream, the sign
Of washing them from guilt of sin to life

Pure, and in mind prepared, if so befall,
For death, like that which the Redeemer died.
All nations they shall teach; for, from that day,
Not only to the sons of Abraham's loins
Salvation shall be preach'd, but to the sons
Of Abraham's faith wherever through the world;
So in his seed all nations shall be blest.

Then to the heaven of heavens he shall ascend
With victory, triumphing through the air
Over his foes and thine; there shall surprise
The serpent, prince of air, and drag in chains
Through all his realm, and there confounded leave;
Then enter into glory, and resume

His seat at God's right hand, exalted high

Above all names in heaven; and thence shall come,
When this world's dissolution shall be ripe,

With glory and power, to judge both quick and dead,
To judge the unfaithful dead, but to reward
His faithful, and receive them into bliss,
Whether in heaven or earth; for then the earth
Shall all be Paradise, far happier place
Than this of Eden, and far happier days.

So spake the Archangel Michael, then paused,
As at the world's great period; and our sire,
Replete with joy and wonder, thus replied:
O goodness infinite, goodness immense !
That all this good of evil shall produce,
And evil turn to good; more wonderful
Than that which by creation first brought forth
Light out of darkness! full of doubt I stand,
Whether I should repent me now of sin

By me done and occasion'd, or rejoice

Much more, that much more good thereof shall spring.

To God more glory, more good-will to men

From God, and over wrath grace shall abound.

But say, if our Deliverer up to heaven

Must reascend, what will betide the few,

His faithful, left among the unfaithful herd,
The enemies of truth? Who then shall guide
His people, who defend? Will they not deal
Worse with his followers than with him they dealt?
Be sure they will, said the angel; but from heaven
He to his own a Comforter will send,

The promise of the Father, who shall dwell
His Spirit within them, and the law of faith,
Working through love, upon their hearts shall write,
To guide them in all truth, and also arm
With spiritual armour, able to resist

Satan's assaults, and quench his fiery darts;
What man can do against them, not afraid,
Though to the death, against such cruelties
With inward consolations recompensed,

And oft supported so as shall amaze
Their proudest persecutors: for the Spirit,
Pour'd first on his apostles, whom he sends
To evangelize the nations, then on all

Baptized, shall them with wondrous gifts endue,
To speak all tongues, and do all miracles,
As did their Lord before them. Thus they win
Great numbers of each nation to receive

With joy the tidings brought from heaven: at length,
Their ministry perform'd, and race well run,
Their doctrine and their story written left,
They die; but in their room, as they forewarn,
Wolves shall succeed for teachers, grievous wolves,
Who all the sacred mysteries of heaven
To their own vile advantages shall turn
Of lucre and ambition, and the truth
With superstitions and traditions taint,
Left only in those written records pure,
Though not but by the Spirit understood.
Then shall they seek to avail themselves of names,
Places, and titles, and with these to join
Secular power, though feigning still to act
By spiritual, to themselves appropriating
The Spirit of God, promised alike and given
To all believers; and from that pretence
Spiritual laws by carnal powers shall force
On every conscience; laws which none shall find
Left them enroll'd, or what the Spirit within
Shall on the heart engrave. What will they then
But force the Spirit of Grace itself, and bind
His consort Liberty? What but unbuild
His living temples, built by faith to stand,
Their own faith, not another's? for on earth
Who against faith and conscience can be heard
Infallible? Yet many will presume:
Whence heavy persecution shall arise
On all who in the worship persevere
Of spirit and truth; the rest, far greater part,
Will deem in outward rites and specious forms
Religion satisfied; truth shall retire

Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of faith
Rarely be found. So shall the world go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign,
Under her own weight groaning till the day
Appear of respiration to the just,
And vengeance to the wicked, at return
Of him so lately promised to thy aid,
The woman's Seed, obscurely then foretold,
Now ampler known thy Saviour and thy Lord,
Last in the clouds from heaven to be reveal'd
In glory of the Father, to dissolve
Satan with his perverted world, then raise

From the conflagrant mass, purged and refined,
New heavens, new earth, ages of endless date,
Founded in righteousness, and peace, and love,
To bring forth fruits, joy and eternal bliss.

He ended; and thus Adam last replied:
How soon hath thy prediction, Seer blest,
Measured this transient world, the race of time,
Till time stand fix'd! Beyond is all abyss,
Eternity, whose end no eye can reach.
Greatly instructed I shall hence depart,
Greatly in peace of thought, and have my fill
Of knowledge, what this vessel can contain ;
Beyond which was my folly to aspire.
Henceforth, I learn that to obey is best,
And love with fear the only God, to walk
As in his presence, ever to observe
His providence, and on him sole depend,
Merciful over all his works, with good
Still overcoming evil, and by small

Accomplishing great things, by things deem'd weak
Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise

By simply meek; that suffering for truth's sake
Is fortitude to highest victory,

And to the faithful death the gate of life;
Taught this by his example, whom I now
Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.

To whom thus also the angel last replied:
This having learn'd, thou hast attain'd the sum
Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the stars
Thou knew'st by name, and all the ethereal powers,
All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works,
Or works of God in heaven, air, earth, or sea,
And all the riches of this world enjoyedst,
And all the rule, one empire; only add
Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith,
Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love,
By name to come call'd charity, the soul
Of all the rest; then wilt thou not be loath
To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
A paradise within thee, happier far.
Let us descend now therefore from this top
Of speculation; for the hour precise

Exacts our parting hence; and, see! the guards,
By me encamp'd on yonder hill, expect
Their motion, at whose front a flaming sword,
In signal of remove, waves fiercely round.
We may no longer stay: go, waken Eve;
Her also I with gentle dreams have calm'd,
Portending good, and all her spirits composed
To meek submission: thou, at season fit,
Let her with thee partake what thou hast heard;
Chiefly, what may concern her faith to know,

« AnteriorContinua »