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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-declared,
This Man of men, attested Son of God,
Temptation and all guile on Him to try-
So to subvert whom he suspected raised
To end his reign on earth so long enjoyed :
But, contrary, unweeting he fulfilled
The purposed counsel, pre-ordained and fixed,
Of the Most High, who, in full frequence bright
Of angels, thus to Gabriel smiling spake :-
“Gabriel, this day, by proof, thou shalt behold,
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 a son,
Great in renown, and called 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 power of the Highest
O'ershadow her. This Man, born and now upgrown,
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 apostasy. He might have learned
Loss overweening, since he failed in Job,
Whose constant perseverance overcame
Whate'er his cruel malice could invent.
He now shall know I can produce a Man,
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 surprised. 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 called My Son,
To earn salvation for the sons of men.”
So spake the Eternal Father, and all Heaven
Admiring stood a space; then into hymns
Burst forth, and in celestial measures moved,
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 entering 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 untried,
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 naught!”
So they in Heaven their odes and vigils tuned.
Meanwhile the Son of God, who yet some days
Lodged in Bethabara, where John baptized,
Musing and much revolving in Eis breast
How best the mighty work He might begin
Of Saviour to mankind, and which way first
Publish His godlike office now mature,
One day orth walked alone, the Spirit leading,
And His doop thoughts, the better to converse
With solitude, till, far from track of men,
Thought following thought, and step by step led on,
He entered now the bordering desert wild,
And, with dark shades and rocks environed round,
His holy meditations thus pursued :-
“Oh, what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awakened 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 compared !
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 measured twice six years, at our great feast
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 admired by all. Yet this not all
To which My spirit aspired. Victorious deeds
Flamed 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 restored :
Yet held it more humane, more heavenly, 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 misdoing, but unware
Misled ; the stubborn only to subdue.
These growing thoughts My mother soon perceiving,
By words at times cast forth, inly rejoiced,
And said to Me apart, ‘High are Thy thoughts,
O Son! but nourish them, and let them soar
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 the Eternal King who rules
All Heaven and earth, angels and sons of men.
A messenger from God foretold Thy birth
Conceived in me a virgin; he foretold
Thou shouldst be great, and sit on David's throne, 240
And of Thy kingdom there should be no end.
At Thy nativity a glorious choir
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 heaven appearing,
Guided the wise men thither from the East,
250 To honour Thee with incense, myrrh, and gold; By whose bright course led on they found the place, Affirming it Thy star, new-graven in heaven, By which they knew Thee King of Israel born. Just Simeon and prophetic Anna, warned 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 revolved The law and prophets, searching what was writ
260 Concerning the Messiah, to our scribes Known partly, and soon found of whom they spake I am—this chiefly, that My way must lie Through many a hard assay, even to the death.
Ere I the promised kingdom can attain,
Or work redemption for mankind, whose sins'
Full weight must be transferred upon My head.
Yet, neither thus disheartened or dismayed,
The time prefixed I waited; when behold
The Baptist (of whose birth I oft had heard,
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 believed was from above; but he
Straight knew Me, and with loudest voice proclaimed
Me Him (for it was shown him so from Heaven)
Me Him whose harbinger he was; and first
Refused on Me his baptism to confer,
As much his greater, and was hardly won.
But, as I rose out of the laving stream,
Heaven opened 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 Heaven, pronounced Me His,
Me His beloved Son, in whom alone
He was well pleased : by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes
The authority which I derived from Heaven.
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 marked return,
Was difficult, by human steps untrod;
And He still on was led, but with such thoughts
Accompanied of things past and to come
Lodged in His breast as well might recommend