Book I

Book I 

The saints are the subjects of Messiah’s kingdom; and of that kingdom it is their duty to publish to the world the blessings and the glories, to the end that, when they are made known, the nations may be thereby induced to submit their hearts to so gracious a sceptre, and the dominion of Christ become as universal in its extent, as it is everlasting in its duration .    

 – Bishop Horne 

Argument 

Original beauty, perfection, and happiness of the earth, and its inhabitants. – Change effected by the fall. – Disorder and enmity introduced into creation. – Man cut off from communion with God, and the celestial world. – Condemned, on account of his transgression, to labour, sorrow, and death. – Under these affecting circumstances, is cheered by the promise of a Deliverer. – This first promise, a mysterious intimation of the design of Jehovah, to save the world by a Divine incarnate Redeemer. – Exultation of Satan, Sin, and Death, over the successful issue of diabolic artifice. – Metaphor of the oak. – Invocation to celestial spirits. – Unsearchable depths of redeeming love. – Progress of sin. – Cain and Abel. – Apostrophe to death. – The empire of sin still more extended. – Noah. – Terrors of the flood. – Gratitude and devotion of the patriarchal family on their deliverance. – Renewal of Jehovah’s covenant. – The rainbow. – Early reappearance of depravity after the flood. – Idolatry. – Truths of primitive revelation taught by Noah. – Confusion of tongues. – Dispersion of the human family. – Assyria. – Egypt. – Selection and preparation of instruments, the work of Divine wisdom. – Call of Abraham. – His faith and obedience. – Sacrifice of Isaac, an expressive type of the suffering Redeemer.

 

The covenant of grace hath subsisted under various forms of external administration ever since the fall, and shall continue in full force to the consummation of all things.

— Dr. Owen

 

    Bright was that morn, and sweet those sacred lays,
When first-born seraphs hymn’d Jehovah’s praise;
When, rising from the dark abyss of night,
In all the charms of new-created light,
This globe first floated on the’ ethereal way,
Sublime in beauty, as in pleasure gay,
Favonian breezes fann’d the verdant woods,
And gales ambrosial curl’d the rippling floods.
The lord of light, with cheering ray benign,
Bless’d the meek flower, and bade the vintage shine.
In genial dews, soft, humid vapours fell,
Burst the full seed, or made the blossom swell.
Earth’s fruitful bosom teem’d with life and joy;
For none had learnt to insure or destroy.
    Nature! what beauties then adorn’d thy face!
How didst thou smile in majesty and grace!
Yet, not thy sun, though in his golden pride
He pour’d forth floods of light and glory wide;
Not thy green earth, refresh’d with softening showers,
Thy horn of plenty, or thy crown of flowers;
Thy countless tribes with varied life endued,
All happy, and all exquisitely good;
Not all thy sweetest, richest treasures fair,
Could with immortal man, their sovereign lord, compare,
    Priest of creation, which with loud acclaim
Swell’d one vast anthem to Jehovah’s name,
He bright in pristine dignity appear’d,
Belov’d of God, by angel hosts revered.
His ample brow celestial wisdom crown’d;
Light fill’d his eye; the mystic spell of sound
Hung on the music of his speech; his soul,
Sublimely soaring, own’d but one control:
Acknowledged ruler of terrestrial things;
Himself but subject to the King of kings.
In spirit pure as angels throned in light,
For him fair seraphs left their mansions bright.
With them he walk’d in converse kind and sweet;
With them he worshipp’d at Jehovah’s feet:
Who, mildly bending from his awful throne,
In man’s perfection saw and loved his own.
Immortal then, Death’s dark and formless shade
Murmur’d no menace to his soul dismay’d.
‘Midst Eden’s roses bloom’d perpetual spring,
In life’s pure fount Health dipp’d her halcyon wing;
And fast beside that crystal current grew
The living tree, sustain’d by heavenly dew,
Which bore perennial fruit, and blossoms ever new.
    From what height fallen, since that tremendous day
When heaven’s apostate angel urged his way
To those sweet bowers of bliss! when, swollen with pride,
Jehovah’s name the serpent’s tongue belied;
With glozing lies man’s treacherous heart betray’d;
The shrine of Deity in ruins laid;
Darken’d the sun in the blue vault above;
To desert wastes transform’d the verdant grove;
Corrosive poisons spread through nature’s frame,
And fill’d the new form’d earth with guilt and shame!
    Dark on that hour loud hurtling tempest frown’d;
The curse, deep driving, scathed the stricken ground;
A vengeful arm impelled its secret force;
A withering world in throes proclaim’d its course.
And still that curse earth’s strong foundations feel;
Her rude rocks tremble, and her mountains reel.
Now, angry elements in storms contend,
Beneath the tempest crashing forests bend,
In billowy foam wild surging waters rise,
And livid fires flash fearful from the skies:
From central gulfs sulphuric torrents pour,
‘Midst warring meteors, deep-mouth’d thunders roar.
With torrid heats the fierce equator glows:
The poles move languid midst perpetual snows.
Here sterile Winter Nature’s hand restrains:
There poisons throb through her distended veins.
    Subject to bondage, lo! creation groans;
Earth’s hostile tribes man’s sinful rule disowns.
The early, kindly, heaven-form’d compact broke,
Now, fierce, they spurn, or bleed beneath his yoke;
The courser’s stately neck Oppression bends,
His tyrant limbs the prowling tiger rends:
All feel the curse, – from where, o’er scorching plains,
In regal pride, the Lybian lion reigns,
To the light insect, borne on golden wing,
To gather nectar from the glowers of spring.
    All swell the sigh, and heave the general groan:
Man stands in guilt, but not in grief, alone.
O’er his sad soul what whelming sorrows pour!
Exalted, happy, innocent no more!
How is his diadem of glory spoil’d!
His lucid robe of heavenly slendour soil’d!
No angel now in paradise appears,
A willing wanderer from celestial spheres.
Dark is the spot, where late, in radiance bright,
The symboll’d Presence met his wondering sight.
Dense gathering clouds, portentous, round him roll,
Obscure his intellect, disturb his soul.
Through dimming mists distorted shapes appear;
Guilt, anguish, agony, remorse, and fear;
And shame, with fever’d cheek and downcast eye,
Beseeching, from the covert, secrecy.
    Hush! the light rustling of the evening breeze
Fans the thick foliage of those branching trees!
Hush! on that breeze far other sounds is heard!
‘Tis the dread summons! ‘tis Jehovah’s word!
It speaks the coming Judge! Prepare to die!
To meet the wrath from which ye cannot fly!
Adam! why of that awful voice afraid?
Why seek ye yet the covert’s deepening shade?
For Him it veils not e’en thy inmost thought.
“Where art thou? What is this that thou has wrought?”
    Confusion curtains Adam’s downcast eye,
And shame and weakness prompt the mean reply,
His Maker, in his gift, reproach’d; the tear
Of penitential anguish, deep, sincere,
Yet flow’d not from his soul; his wandering mind
Had swerved from truth, – ‘twas impotent and blind.
What heart so hard that mercy cannot move?
What breast of adamant but yields to love?
Lo, from the Judge, what mingled acents flow!
What words of comfort temper words of wo!
The curse, tremendous doom of guilt, descends;
Death, dire companion, sin’s dark train attends;
Sorrow and labour track the thorny way;
The stronger govern, and the weak obey.
The penalty upon the crime impress’d,
The just award, the righteous Judge attest:
On each, retributive, his sentence falls;
The tempter serpent ignominious crawls
A reptile o’er the earth, – to man, a foe;
Man destined long his venom’d tooth to know.
    But hark! what soothing, healing accents come!
Hope blossoms on the margin of the tomb.
True, man the serpent’s rankling tooth shall feel,
The wily foe shall lacerate his heel:
But, from the victim of his glozing lies,
The woman, shall a conquering Seed arise;
He shall avenge her mighty wrong, and tread
Victorious on the scaly monster’s head.
Go, hapless parents of a fallen race,
Go, gather comfort from these words of grace;
Go, wail your foul transgression at his feet;
The tears of penitence, of hope, are sweet.
The promise given, in future years fulfill’d,
Its earnest now, its harvest then shall yield:
Your Eden lost, that Conqueror shall regain,
O’er every subject foe extend his reign,
Triumphant his mysterious path pursue,
Unbar the gates of death, and open heaven for you.
    Go, then, sad wanderers, quit your blooming bowers;
For sightless thorns exchange your cherish’d flowers.
For lo! the Seraphim with swords of fire
Haste to the guard, and caution to retire;
Yet, while from Eden’s blissful groves ye turn,
And the full eye can scarce its path discern;
While on your steps the curse prolific springs,
And sorrow folds you in her damp, cold wings;
While sickness, pain and death obstruct your way,
O lift your eyes to heaven! believe, and pray!
For lo, vicarious, at yon altar lies,
A victim slain in hallow’d sacrifice,
Whose guiltless blood for yours a ransom streams,
Mysterious type of His whose death from sin redeems.
    Now, lost archangel, at thy ruin smile!
Bless the deep fraud, admire the prosperous guile!
From hell’s dread haunts thy flaming legions call,
Unbless’d intruders on this earthly ball;
To torture man, to swell their own offence,
To urge the thunders of Omnipotence,
Thyself the phalanx of rebellion lead,
Till heaven arrest thee in the daring deed;
Till thy bold front the searing lightning scathe,
And vengeance hurl thee to the gulf beneath,
To wail, in endless, ever-heightening pain,
Thy proud defiance of Jehovah’s reign.
Sin! o’er thy triumphs cast thy gloating eyes;
And, if in thy fell bosom joy can rise,
Exult that thou hast fill’d the world with wo,
Dishonour’d heaven, laid human glory low,
Ignited earth from hell’s infernal fire,
And piled the brands for nature’s funeral pyre.
And thou, dread Death, whose pale and ghastly form,
Rose on the blackness of this awful storm,
While with the serpent crown thou bind’st thy brow,
And thy barb’d sceptre lays its myriads low,
Rejoice, that o’er the human form divine,
Jehovah’s workmanship, Jehovah’s shrine,
Corruption shall its gloomy reign extend,
Till nature, time, and thou, in ruin end.
    Pride of the forest, so the lofty oak,
Falls riven by the lurid lightning’s stroke.
Deep pierced its roots, high rose its towering head,
In broad expanse its leafy honours spread;
Blithe on its boughs sweet choristers of spring,
Caroll’d soft notes, and plumed the downy wing;
While beasts at noon in tranquil slumbers laid,
Sought the cool shelter of its grateful shade.
Dark frowns the storm: low from the gathering cloud,
Wild whirlwinds rush, in murmurs hoarse and loud;
Swift flies the shaft, the rolling thunder sounds;
Back from the shivering tree, the stroke rebounds;
Its sturdy trunk the flaming bolt receives;
As spoils of autumn, fly the blasted leaves;
The tempest’s rage its branching beauty rends;
Wrench’d from its root, the ponderous bulk descends;
Earth trembles as it falls! Its prostrate length,
The wreck of beauty, majesty, and strength,
Lies on the plain, memorial of His power
Who ruled the terrors of that stormy hour.
 
Celestial spirits! ye whose harps of gold
            Once tuned in paradise,
            In sacred symphonies,
Did there the hallow’d joys of heaven unfold:
            Whether at early dawn,
            From far enamell’d lawn,
Your light, ethereal footsteps brush’d the dews;
            Or, form yon brighter sphere,
            Your plumes, expanded here,
Enrich’d the glowing morn with lovelier hues;
Or, whether from your robes of fleecy light,
Ye scatter’d radiance that dispell’d the night:
 
Whether in lofty strains, ye hail’d the sun,
            From ocean’s emerald bed
            Raising his glorious head;
Or, when his midway course through heaven was run,
            In Eden’s shaded bowers,
            Perfumed with fragrant flowers.
Gave soft Aeolian music to the breeze;
            Or, mild at falling eve,
            When glittering moonbeams give
Their pure, pale luster to the trembling trees,
Ye breathed your holiest melodies of love,
Accordant with adoring choirs above.
 
Ye who conversed with man, and linger’d still,
            Enamour’d to attend
            Your new delightful friend,
His hallow’d mind with heavenly themes to fill,
            Ho deeply would ye grieve,
            And to your soft harps give
Sad sorrow’s tones, his piteous fall to see!
            Oh ye would change your measure
            Of sweet and solemn pleasure
To deep and plaintive moans for man’s apostasy;
            And quit the groves of paradise
            To seek again your native skies:
Unmeet associate now for spirits bright,
He shrinks abash’d from your unsullied light.
 
Yet shall ye tune once more your harps of gold,
            And oft in future years,
            From yonder radiant spheres
Descend, communion sweet with earth to hold:
            A loftier theme awaits your praise,
            A deeper mystery shall raise
Your generous sympathies with man, –
            With man, redeem’d, restored;
            For lo, the’ eternal Word
Unfolds salvation’s wondrous plan:
Jehovah to the mighty rescue comes!
            From the sad universe
            He bids the shades disperse;
The dire destroyer to destruction dooms,
And Eden’s blasted groves with heavenly light relumes.
 
As breaks the moonbeam through the parting storm,
So, mildly rising, Mercy’s radiant form
Burst on the darkness of this dreadful night,
And cheer’d its gloom by rays of heavenly light.
Hope, smiling cherub, in her train appear’d;
Faith at her word the hallow’d altar rear’d;
And Love, on downy wing descending, came
To kindle there devotion’s sacred flame.
But O, what spirit, eagle-plumed, may soar
Into what viewless height, that depth explore,
Whence sprang the counsels of redeeming grace,
Heaven’s large philanthropy to Adam’s race!
No finite mind that depth, that height, may gain,
Alike by saint or seraph urged in vain.
Salvation’s source Jehovah only knows,
Himself the fountain whence its fullness flows;
Sphered in eternity, he dwells alone,
Omniscient, yet unsearchable, unknown.
To none the secret of his name he tells,
All with himself the mighty mystery dwells:
Yet, while the’ unfathom’d spring no eye explores,
Earth drinks the living stream, and wondering heaven adores.
    But thus on man while pitying Mercy smiled,
And soothing Hope the anxious heart beguiled,
While pale Repentance pour’d the contrite tear,
And Faith subdued the bonding sounds of fear,
From sin’s dire seeks a baleful harvest rose,
Whose poisonous growth o’erspread the world with woes.
Not half so noxious blossoms to the sight
The deadly nightshade, or fell aconite,
Or upas, amid Java’s humid shades,
Whose fatal juice life’s crimson stream invades,
Whose rude, rough bark the liquid death distils,
Whose leaves drop venom, and whose vapour kills,
Corrodes the channels of the vital flood,
And at its source congeals the purple blood,
Till life, fast ebbing, from its fount retires,
And, writhed with frenzied rage, the fainting wretch expires.
    Weep, fallen parents of a fallen race!
But O, what tears can sin’s deep stain efface?
Weep o’er the darken’d mind, the’ unhallow’d soul,
The lawless will, that hates and spurns control,
The’ obdurate conscience, the perverse desire,
The passions kindling with infernal fire!
Weep for domestic strifes, fraternal hate,
For envy, jealousy, revenge, debate,
For fraud, for guile, for malice, for despair,
For murder! – for low! furious Cain is there!
In whose dark bosom ruthless anger burns,
Whose heart from man, from God, indignant turns.
Mark that distorted brow! See, stern of soul,
Dread thoughts of vengeance in his eyeballs roll.
He seeks a brother’s blood! He, form’d to share
A brother’s blessings, and a brother’s care,
Amidst the jars of elemental strife,
The sights of suffering, and the storms of life,
His destined friend, his counselor, and guide,
Companion, placed by nature at his side,
That each to other, kindly join’d, might prove
His manhood’s treasure, as his childhood’s love.
Now wrench’d these early, tender, heaven-born ties,
In his fell thought one only purpose lies.
Impious and cruel, lo, his murderous hand
Deals the dread blow of death. The’ affrighted land
From its stain’d bosom, deep, returns the groan,
And cries for vengeance to the’ eternal throne.
    As views the anxious husbandman, aghast,
His purpling vintage, by the lightning’s blast,
Wither’d, and scathed, and sear’d: As on the fray
Of tempest clouds, that dim his wondering way,
The’ affrighted traveler looks: Or mournful swain,
Who sees the mountain torrent pour amain,
Down his sweet native vale: So on the dead
Gazed the first parents: ‘twas the hour of dread:
Recoiling nature shudder’d at the sight,
And backward shrunk instinctive. On that night
A deeper gloom the mourning heavens array’d,
And spectred Abel glanced athwart the shade:
Then hung the curse, like meteor clouds around;
Then dimly vision’d, scaring Vengeance frown’d;
Then sunk the heart beneath domestic wo,
In pangs that other hearts can never know;
Then, Adam, rose to heaven thy laboring sights!
Then, weeping even, unuttered agonies
Throbb’d through thy bursting heart! All but Despair
Of Sorrow’s hapless progeny were there:
But all was silence; contrite grief impress’d
Submission on the self-convincing breast;
Handmaid of Faith, calm Resignation stood,
And prostrate Patience bore the scourge of God.
Bleeding, and pierced, and torn, yet each confess’d
‘Twas meet the shaft should wound the guilty breast.
    Not thus unhallow’d Cain, whose deed accurs’d,
Bade drear, dim Death from earth’s dark entrails burst.
Upborne to heaven, the vengeful cry of blood
Enter’d, and enters still, the ear of God:
Stern from his throne the searching summons came;
Cain, guilty culprit, dead to truth and shame,
Indignant from requiring justice turn’d;
Fierce in his breast the flame of anger burn’d:
But man is impotent in wrath; in vain
He hurls his threats against the raging main,
Hoarse thunders o’er his breast resistless roll
Confound his pride, and crush his quivering soul.
Uncontrite, unsubdued, constrain’d to bear
The rankling vengeance; terror and despair
Fix’d in his breast their harpy fangs, and drove
The murderer from the face of heaven above,
From all the charities of life below,
To wander wide in solitary wo,
His dire disruption of those bonds to wail
Which none shall guiltless break, unvisited assail.
    Yet, Abel, earliest martyr to the strife
Of Satan’s serpent brood, thy guiltless life
Fell not unhonour’d; thee the Power Divine
Attested righteousness at his holy shrine;
To thee the pledge, the sacred witness gave,
THAT SACRIFICIAL BLOOD, THROUGH FAITH, SHALL SAVE;
Confirm’d his promise, and still points, through thee,
To heaven’s profoundest, highest mystery, –
MESSIAH, for the world a ransom given,
On earth devoted, – pleading now in heaven;
Pleading for those, who, with a faith like thine,
Repentant, on the consecrated shrine
The bleeding victim place; who meekly own,
Nor harvest fruits, nor vintage may atone
For man’s deep, desperate sin; nor seek to hide
Their foul offence beneath the cloak of pride,
Presumptuous, to his Majesty draw near,
Unsanction’d by that blood; nor, reverent, fear
That all-consuming fire, whose scorching blaze
Low in the ashes of confusion lays
Each rash intruder who presymes alone
To press with sandall’d foot the precincts of his throne.
 
DEATH! dark and gloomy king!
Ho, on thy ebon wing,
How didst thou sail from the dread gulf below!
What fearless spirit durst
Hell’s ponderous portals burst,
Thy passage from that nether world to show?
O, thou art strange of form!
Thou ridest on the storm;
And in thy murky wings,
The whistling whirlwind sings;
While dismal groans,
And piteous moans,
From thy dim shadows sound,
And fearful visions haunt thy solitary ground.
 
            Yet these illusions dread,
            On thy dark confines spread,
Like meteors on the misty mountain’s brow, –
            These vanish from the sight,
            As, from that stormy height,
Into thin air those spectral vapours flow.
            But thou hast fears defined,
            That shake the loftiest mind;
            The interminable sea
            Of vast eternity,
                        Breaks with rude roar
                        On time’s dark shore,
                        Then onward seeps
            Into illimitable deeps;
            And those who launch with thee
Must tempt with untried step that vast immensity.
 
            Thy melancholy train,
            Are Languor, Grief, and Pain;
Or, unsuspected, thy swift arrow flies:
            Thy touch dissolves the frame
            All beauteous though it came
From its great Maker’s hand; though break’st the ties,
            Those viewless ties, that bind
            The imperishable mind
            To its companion frail,
            Whom thousand storms assail,
                        Which e’en the breeze,
                        That quivering trees
            To rustling motion scarcely wakes,
Like autumn’s faded spoils, to earth’s cold bosom shakes.
 
And, ruthless as thou art,
Thou severest the sad heart,
To other hearts by sweet attractions bound;
            Though closely twined in one,
            Yet thy stern work is done,
In spite of weeping eyes, of souls in sorrow drown’d,
            Thou fearest not to leave
            The desolate to grieve;
            But O! there is a bond
            Thy gloomy reign beyond;
                        And sacred love,
                        In realms above
            Indissolubly, sweetly binds,
Though now disjoin’d by thee, congenial, kindred minds.
 
            From the fair light of day,
            Thou bear’st thy trembling prey,
To the cold, gloomy caverns of the deep;
            Where, o’er thy drear domain
            Silence and darkness reign,
And desolation and corruption sleep.
            No cheerful sound is there,
            No voice of praise or prayer.
            Nor sun’s meridian light,
            Nor the pale fires of night,
                        Disperse the gloom
                        That shrouds the tomb.
            Nor thither bend the steps of spring,
Nor summer there alights, on blithe and roseate wing.
 
            Death! minister of heaven!
            Into thy hand is given
The awful scourge of justice; and thy stroke
            Resistless must descend
            Till time itself shall end;
Then the strong pillars of creation broke,
            At his tremendous word,
            Thy captives all restored
Shall at the bar of their great Judge appear.
                        Till that dread hour                
                        Thy tyrant power
            Shall Adam’s sinful race subdue;
Then, by a Mightier slain, thyself shalt perish too.
 
    Has Death his triumphs? O’er the fallen race
Sweep his dark plumes, Oblivion and Disgrace?
Sits he enthroned in solitary state,
Midst mouldering tombs, and temples desolate,
Beneath whose ruins scaly serpents sleep,
Where night birds scream, and desert monsters keep
Their dreary haunts, loud howling to the moon?
Or seeks he, riding on the beam of noon,
His victim, where the hum of peopled lands
Rolls murmuring, as the wave o’er ocean’s sands?
Dwells he where rich the sculptured marble rears
Its trophied pride, or spring’s first flower appears
On the green turf, beneath the yew tree’s shade,
Where rustic Labour to repose is laid?
Rules he o’er conquer’d kings of earliest age,
O’er tyrants fuming on life’s restless stage
Even but the by-gone hour? o’er stately Pride,
Or Vassalage, reposing by his side?
O’er beauty, wisdom, virtue, glory, wealth,
The blast of sickness, or the bloom of health?
Do earth’s wide regions feel his iron reign?
Waves his black pennon o’er the boundless main?
Though such his might, such though his conquests be,
Unckeck’d by slave or monarch, bond or free;
SIN,thou has larger, wider, mightier sway,
And deathless realms thy direful yoke obey.
    O depth profound, unpierced by mortal sight,
Whence issued darkness on the world of light,
From what dim shade, what elemental storm,
Sprang forth, detested Sin, thy hydra form?
How grew thy germ of being, midst the blaze
Of heaven’s own beams, till, on the glorious rays
Of many a morning star, deep darkness fell?
Thy secrets, or thy triumphs, who shall tell?
Death wastes exulting man’s enfeebled race;
‘Twas thine, archangels from their throns to chase,
To plunge them deep in floods of sulphurous fire,
To whelm in torrents of Jehovah’s ire,
Infernal pangs in deathless minds to rais,e
To edge the tooth that unconsuming preys.
‘Twas thine, fell sorceress, issuing baleful forth,
To blast with plagues the bright and beauteous earth;
To pierce into the bitter springs of wo,
And bid their dark and turbid waters flow; –
Sorrow and sickness, penury and pain,
The anxious vigil, and the labour vain,
Hope’s wither’d blossoms, Falsehood’s lurking snare,
The thorn deep rankling in the heart of Care,
The roar of Anarchy, the feuds of Strife,
The poisons mingled in the cup of life.
Thee Judgment follows; – in thy treacherous course
Lie ambush’d, Misery, Despair, Remorse;
Destruction, poised awhile on vulture’s wings,
Awaits thy harvest of devoted things;
And haggard Desolation, wild, alone,
O’er thy polluted haunts, erewhile, shall raise his throne.
    Long suffering, yet by human crimes provoked
Against the world Jehovah’s anger smoked;
Sin had defaced his image; man, perverse,
His rule contemn’d, and in his universe,
Seeking delusion, found delusion’s curse.
At length the slumbering sword of justice woke;
Keen was its edge, resistless fell its stroke;
Fell on man’s whole offending race, and laid
That world in ruins which his wisdom made;
One holy seed alone remain’d to bear
The Branch of Righteousness, the promised Heir,
To bless the renovated world, and prove
The sternest justice yields to mightier love.
    NOAH! to thee, – of all the sinful race
Alone found upright, – unto thee the grace
Of favouring Heaven was granted; and thine ear
Was privileged that secret voice to hear,
Which speaks Jehovah’s will: to thee he came,
In all the glories of his awful name,
And bade the for impending wrath prepare,
And bade thee that impending wrath declare.
Through rolling years of patient toil, thy hand
Laborious wrought, fulfilling Heaven’s command.
Thy warning voice proclaim’d the judgment nigh,
Ere rising clouds obscured the azure sky;
Ere yet, in air, destructive tempests hung,
The patient Spirit, by the pleading tongue,
Invited, counsell’d urged the apostate race,
To fly from death to mercy’s kind embrace.
But blind Impenitence, nor eye, nor ear,
Turn’d to thy work of faith, thy words of fear.
The taunt, the smile, from the cold lip of pride,
Or bolder scoff, that fear’d not to deride
The timid baseness of a mind in dread
Of distant ills, by unseen impulse led: –
Acceptance such as this thy work received,
So was thy counsel by the world believed,
Till, wild and fierce, the reckless tempest strove,
Till vollied lightings rent the clouds above,
Till down from heaven impetuous torrents pour’d,
And central floods through earth’s deep caverns roar’d;
Till, o’er the fruitful vale, the mountain’s height,
The cultured plain, the garden of delight,
Floated, and foam’d, the deepening deluge wide,
And bore destruction on its awful tide.
    Then, hapless man, the soil that gave thee birth
Groan’d with thy weight of crime! Dissolving earth
Felt the’ incumbent curse; and thou, in vain,
With trembling steps, along the liquid plain,
Urgest thy tardy, unavailing flight!
Lo! the tall cedars on the mountain’s height
Bow to the raging storm! Thy last resource
Beneath the whirlwind’s dire, convulsive force
Falls, crashing, thundering down: forest shakes,
The rifted adamant asunder breaks.
Loud bellowing waters fill the chasm beneath;
Above is vengeance! all around is death!
Nature’s wild dissonance returns thy groan,
Till al is silence! Ruin reigns alone!
Nature’s wild dissonance returns thy groan,
Till all is silence! Ruin reigns alone!
Above the measureless, the formless waste,
She sits, exulting o’er a world defaced:
Around her throne the spoils of Vengeance sweep,
And Judgment heaves the billows of the deep.
    But Mercy triumph’d: o’er those waters dark,
Majestic rose the heaven-constructed ark,
Upborne by Him, who to its bounds consign’d
The scanty, single remnant of mankind;
The family his grace reserved to tell
Succeeding worlds, how wrath on sinner’s fell;
Succeeding worlds to teach Jehovah’s name,
And one eternal covenant God proclaim.
Upborne by Him, who bears the earth sublime
O’er the dark waters of tempestuous time,
With gladness only less than spirits know
When haven’d safe from every storm below,
The trembling remnant view’d the verdant earth,
And pressed exulting into second birth.
Their grateful hands the hallow’d altar rear’d,
In mystic flame the present God appear’d;
His token of returning grace they saw,
And, prostrate, welcomed with adoring awe.
Heard with enraptured ears the Voice Divine,
And look’d with transport on the covenant sign.
While, o’er the watery meteor, dense and low,
Spread the soft splendours of the beauteous bow.
Signal of peace, of amity restored,
Seal of His truth who spoke the cheering word: –
“While earth revolves, heaven’s rolling orbs sublime
Shall keep the constant register of time;
Summer and winter, day and night remain,
Redundant harvests crown the cultured plain;
The swelling floods, to ocean’s depths confined,
Return no more to desolate mankind;
But Truth and Love the promised grace prepare,
And renovated earth the covenant blessing share.”
 
GLOOMY cloud, that, lowering low,
    Shadowest nature’s lovely light,
Wide thy deepening darkness thrown
    Catch the sunbeam bursting bright;
Gently on thy humid breast,
Bid its soften’d splendours rest.
 
Wild the wind, and fierce the flood
    Foaming, roaring, raved, and rush’d;
Thunder’s roll’d, – the voice of God: –
    Now the angry storm is hush’d,
Now the eddying whirlwind sleeps,
Ocean seeks its barrier deeps.
 
Beauteous bow! thy arch sublime,
    Resting on the distant hills,
Leads me back to earliest time:
    Hope my pensive spirit fills,
In thy softest hues I trace
Gentler, lovelier beams of grace.
 
Lo, the tempest’s rage is o’er,
    Flashing fires no longer gleam;
Solemn thunders cease to roar,
    Silvery clouds resplendent stream;
Bright the bursting sun appears,
Ararat its summit rears.
 
From his floating home released,
    Noah on the mountain stands,
Spreads the sacrificial feast,
    Lifts to heaven his praying hands,
Listens to the Voice Divine,
Looks on thee, peace-speaking sign.
 
Hush! the word of promise breaks,
    Not in thunders hoarse and loud:
Lo! the covenant Saviour speaks
    Softly from the symboll’d cloud.
Rise! the storm of wrath is pass’d;
Judgment shall not always last.
 
So, upon the anxious heart,
    Chafed with sorrow’s wild alarm,
When the troubled clouds disport,
    When the rough wind sinks to calm,
Breaks the light from distant spheres,
Falling on a mist of tears.
 
Sun of Righteousness! from thee,
    Soft those lucid rays descend,
Mildest mercy beams on me;
    Whispers every storm shall end,
Now the covenant sign is given,
Bright appears the bow in heaven.
 
Resting of the’ eternal hills,
    Arching high the emerald throne,
Heaven with hallow’d light it fills,
    Sends its soft effulgence down.
Holy light, I hail thee now,
Circling, mild, Emmanuel’s brow.
 
Yes, that meek, resplendent sign
    Presages a cloudless sky;
Heaven’s eternal light shall shine,
    Truth and Mercy meet on high,
Righteousness and Peace unite,
Mingling beams divinely bright.
 
Hush, my sorrow! from a storm,
    Fierce, and terrible, and wild,
Sprang that bow whose splendours form
    Radiant, round the Reconciled:
Glory’s fountain set in shade,
Earthly lights retired dismay’d.
 
From the cross, where darkness shrouds
    Him who suffer’d there for me,
In the fearful tempest clouds,
    Resting, dread, on Calvary,
Mercy’s beaming sign appears,
See, believe, and dry thy tears!
 
    Severe in judgment, infinite in grace,
With righteous Noah, and his favour’d race,
The bond of peace Jehovah mild renew’d,
And smiled acceptance through the covenant blood.
Yet still the stain by Sin’s dread touch convey’d,
The wound the serpent’s venom’d tooth had made,
Retain’d its sanguine hue, its deadly smart.
Dark was man’s erring mind, and hard his heart,
Till, wandering wide, and wider still, from bliss,
Lost in earth’s labyrinth of vanities,
The’ apostate in the creature dared enshrine
The formless glories of the Light Divine.
    In vain did He whose weeping eyes had seen.
A world in ruins, He who stood between
The living and the dead, aloud proclaim
The fearful glories of Jehovah’s name;
Spoke of the Infinite, Eternal ONE,
Pervading all, all knowing, all unknown;
Taught his creating power, his perfect skill,
His spotless purity, his sovereign will,
His awful justice, when in righteous ire
Reveal’d in terrors of consuming fire.
    Of would the patriarch tell, in strains sublime,
While yet he linger’d on the verge of time,
Of pristine truths, in paradise disclosed,
Ere sin, and death, and darkness interposed,
Unfold the fatal source of human wo,
Mysterious Mercy’s wondrous counsels show,
The guiltless victim on the altar lay,
With hallow’d rites that guiltless victim slay,
The mystic type in mystic sounds explain,
Point to the LAMB in sacred purpose slain,
Substance of legal signs, mysterious scope
Of vision’d prophecy, of Gospel hope.
    So, Priest and Prophet, taught the reverent sire
The words of wisdom; wisdom’s sons admire.
Dark o’er the rest bewildering shadows closed,
Error and pride the voice of truth opposed;
With deepening gloom drew on the dreary night,
Offended Heaven withheld rejected light,
Apostate man Jehovah’s glory stain’d,
Denied his nature, and his name profaned,
Provoked him in the insolence of pride,
On Shinar’s plains his fearful wrath defied,
Till Babel’s haughty towers the guilt disclosed,
And myriad-tongued Confusion interposed.
    Then, scatter’d by his frown, the tribes divide,
As choice directs, or mightier leaders guide,
To distant climes their various steps they bend,
And cities, temples, palaces ascend.
O’er Asia’s plains, lo, mighty Nimrod flies,
And Ninevah and Babylon arise:
Rise to perpetuate his name and crimes,
To bear Idolatry to distant times;
In distant times to sink in dust, and prove,
Though man is proud, Jehovah rules above,
And holds the loftiest in his sight as small,
When vengeance bids the lifted thunders fall,
As the light insect, which presumptuous flies,
And courts the flame until, consumed, it dies.
    Egypt! thy ruin’d piles this truth attest!
The curse is graven on thy ruthless breast!
Though loud thy vaunt, erect thy crested brow,
Thou, too, art fallen; thy voice is silent now!
From Babel’s scenes of strife, by Miraim led,
Dark Amnon’s sons thy fruitful plains o’erspread.
Yet no hosannah’s bade those plains rejoice,
When first they echo’d to a human voice;
No holy anthem met thy orient skies,
To Him who bade the sun, resplendent, rise;
Nor, lonely musing, where, through deserts wide,
Old Nilus sweeps his soft and silver tide,
While evening shades disclosed the starry train,
And the calm moon commenced her cloudless reign,
Did Contemplation raise the thought sublime
To Him whose being, ere the birth of time,
For from himself in changeless fullness came,
THE ONE ETERNAL, SELF-EXISTENT NAME.
    No; for their faithless hearts, by fiends betray’d,
From Him, the Fount of life and blessing, stray’d;
Till, lost to all the majesty of mind,
Their erring intellect to sense confined,
They basely stoop’d to bow the suppliant knee
To every form of idol vanity,
The Deity beneath his works debased,
And truth and wisdom from their worship chased.
    Rahab! thou wast the dragon of the deep!
The monsters in thy reedy fens that sleep,
Or wide for prey their yawning jaws extend,
Did more than thou man’s fallen face befriend:
From thee a tide of deadly poisons flow’d,
Thy glistening scales with lurid brightness glow’d;
And deep within thy timorous entrails lay,
In dark deposit, thy unhallow’d prey.
Yes; thou wast swollen with pride, thy lengthening train,
From thy deep river to the stormy main,
Its spiral folds voluminously spread;
Thine eyes of fire, thy foaming nostrils, shed
Thick wreaths of smoke, and sparks of hellish flame;
Nor barbed dart, nor spear could pierce thy frame.
Aloof from thee, e’en armed warriors stood,
Nor dared arouse the monster of the flood.
But thou hast perish’d in thy pride! The power
That suffer’d thee to bask thy baleful hour,
Hath drawn thee from the deeps, and cast thee forth,
To feast the fowls of heaven, the beasts of earth.
His hook hath pierced thy jaws, his mighty hand
Hath stretch’d thee lifeless on the desert sand,
And left thee in corruption to proclaim
The jealous glories of Jehovah’s name.
    As through mid-air the sweeping current blows,
Or, gently gliding, sinks to soft repose,
All uncotroll’d by man, who knows not where
Fierce hyperborean storms their shafts prepare,
Or whence, descending mild, on balmy wing,
Soft Zephyr comes to fan the flowers of spring:
So works, by human counsels undefined,
The teaching Spirit on the pliant mind:
Nor to the world his secret course declares,
But unperceived his instrument prepares.
Then in the finish’d work unfolds his skill,
And bends his agent to his perfect will.
    In sovereign wisdom, as in sovereign grace,
The’ Eternal Ruler sways the fallen race,
The good to one vouchsafed designs for all,
Regards the mightiest, nor deserts the small.
To save the world from fast-encroaching night,
To form one orb of concentrated light,
A barrier against Satan’s hosts to raise,
To lead Delusion back from Error’s maze,
Messiah’s path of mercy to prepare,
To give to future times the promised Heir,
One from the rest Jehovah’s wisdom chose,
And ABRAHAM to that peerless glory rose.
    Lo! ‘midst the deep recess of Syrian groves,
Where, lost in thought, the musing shepherd roves,
Is heard the Voice Divine! That voice to hear
In spell-bound silence stands the listening seer;
For well his ear its solemn whispers knew,
And oft had sainted visions met his view.
Now, breathing through the stilly gloom profound,
Comes to his conscious heart a wondrous sound: –
“Arise! from country and from kindred go;
“Myself thy path, thy destined place will show.”
    ‘Tis done! No keen regrets, no cold delay,
His willing, prompt, obedient footsteps stay.
O’er deserts, floods, and steeps, at Heaven’s command,
The pilgrim journeys to that distant land:
That distant land, in faith explored, became
His promised heritage. Earth’s scroll of fame,
Illustrious seer! no heraldry displays
Like that which blazons forth thy deathless praise.
    The slumbering world, lo, midnight darkness veils;
Sound, restless flutterer, folds her wings; the gales
Breathe not on Mamre’s oaks. Along the plain
Stretch the white curtains of the shepherd train;
And o’er the glistening, ambient concave wide,
Bright starry fires, innumerous, silent glide.
Ethereal spirits ‘mid their splendours move,
Sleepless, – for sleep invades not those above.
They whom nor restless thought nor labours tire,
They wake to love, to ponder, to admire
Scenes unobserved by man, whose stagnant sense,
Absorb’d, regards not heaven’s magnificence.
Yet saints, as well as angels, vigils keep
To gaze on midnight splendours. Roused from sleep,
Lo, Abraham’s soul to solemn thought inclines; –
His own mysterious journey, Heaven’s designs,
The land in promise given, the promised heir,
Himself a childless, pilgrim stranger there.
On themes like these his mind revolving turns,
In his rapt bosom pure devotion burns.
His eye of faith no darkling mists obscure:
The Lord had spoken; and his word was sure.
    Night is the hour of vision. Hark! a sound!
Yet treads no footsteps o’er the tented ground,
No rising breeze in heaven’s calm ether wakes.
Yet see! the shepherd’s curtain’d dwelling shakes!
A Form beside him stands, a voice is heard;
It breathes no terrors, ‘tis the living Word,
The covenant Angel, by whose conduct led,
His flocks on CANAAN’S pastured lands he spread;
At whose command he cross’d Euphrates’ flood, –
‘Tis Deity enshrined, He, since-incarnate God.
    ‘Tis Abraham’s God is present! Low the seer
Bends in prostration, all his soul is ear,
While sounds oracular in blessings flow,
And Wisdom’s lips celestial secrets show.
Thus saith Jehovah: – “Abraham, I am thine!
Thy shield, thy bulwark, is the Strength Divine.
Lo, kings and princes from thy root shall rise,
And earth, through all her countless families,
Receive salvation through thy favour’d line,
And hail thee father of the Seed Divine.
Go forth abroad, survey the starry height,
Count, if thou canst, those orbs of sparkling light:
Then may thy tongue that progeny compute,
The destined branches of thy single root,
Who shall, from me, this stranger land possess,
Heirs of thy blessing, and thy righteousness.”
    Would favour’d saints Messiah’s counsels share,
A weight of glory in his kingdom bear,
Those favour’d saints must share his sorrows too,
And taste his cup, ere they his glory view.
Thus Abraham, most exalted, most beloved,
By strictest test, omniscient Wisdom proved;
Of him whi most to know of heaven aspired,
His faith’s severest sacrifice required;
That grace matured might beam with holier light,
And purest day succeed to gloomiest night.
    The promised son is given. In Isaac’s birth
The patriarch’s portion is complete on earth.
To distant years his hallow’d hopes extend,
Princes and priests in lengthen’d line descend;
And Him, that peaceful King of righteousness,
Whose reign the renovated earth shall bless,
His faith beholds in mystic vision near,
To take from him his humble lineage here.
His largest hopes are realized below,
And now, ere yet to brighter realms he go,
He waits, he prays, to view with clearer light
Messiah’s day of grace and glory bright.
    His prayer accepted rose. In secret herd,
Breathed on his startled ear a fearful word.
Swift through his soul its thrilling horrors ran,
And pierced the father, as it smote the man.
It came at midnight hour: – “Awake! Arise!
When morning light relumes the eastern skies,
Haste to Moriah’s distant mount; and there
The solemn sacrificial rite prepare,
And there the victim on the altar lay,
And there thy son beloved, thy only Isaac, slay!”
    It is Jehovah’s voice! Nor doubt, nor fear,
Nor love, nor grief, detain the’ obedient seer.
The stern command his bleeding heart fulfils,
He seeks with patient step Moriah’s hills.
His hand the gleaming blade, the censer bears;
Unconscious Isaac by his side appears,
Yet soon a meek devoted victim lies
On the cleft wood a willing sacrifice.
With steadfast faith and eye full fix’d on heaven,
To God the consecrated gift is given.
He can restore the life his bounty gave,
And raise the heir of promise from the grave.
    “Stay Abraham! stay thine hand, the work is done!
Unbind the victim, Heaven gives back thy son! –
Gives back with double blessing, and to thee
Unfolds, through him, that mightiest mystery
Which angels wait to learn, Messiah’s grace,
His sinless offering for a sinful race.”
    Thus on the world with slowly opening light,
As dusky dawn succeeds to cheerless night,
Through veiling shades Messiah’s splendours rose,
And types, and signs, mysterious truths disclose;
While Wisdom to the meek, the sainted mind,
Her beam convey’d, the way of peace to find,
Reveal’d the righteousness of faith, the grace,
Prepared to rescue man’s apostate race;
The same, since erst heaven’s bright cherubic guard,
With falchion flames deserted Eden barr’d,
The Lamb before the world’s foundation slain,
Symboll’d in mystic imagery, or plain
To human sense disclosed, enshrined below,
The Man of sacrifice, the Man of wo.
    Hope of a world condemn’d, Messiah, hail!
Nor hell, nor death, shall o’er thy Church prevail.
Thy conquering arm the serpent foe shall bind,
Thy blood redeem, thy sceptre rule, mankind.
 
Book II
 
Table of Contents
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One response to “Book I

  1. Pingback: Agnes Bulmer – Methodist Poetess | 18th Century Religion, Literature, and Culture

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