Book XI

Book XI
 
It becomes us only to dwell in duty, and to be silent in our thoughts, and wary in our discourses of God; and let him choose the time when he will prune his vine, and when he will burn his thorns;how long he will smite his servants, and when he will destroy his enemies.
–Jeremy Taylor
 
Argument
 
A FAITHFUL remnant reserved by Divine Providence, even in seasons of the most exterminating judgment, to be the germ of the reviving Church. — The visible Church found only among the Waldenses and Albigenses, in the secluded valleys of Piedmont. — Their sufferings and constancy in the perpetuation of evangelical truth, and resistance to the Papal apostasy. — Their present depressed circumstances. — Appeal to British sympathy. — Wickliffe. — Sketch of a Waldensian pastor. — Almighty Power, by weak instruments, achieves its grand designs. — Welcome dawn of the Reformation. — Its gradual and unmarked progress. — Luther. — His bold and successful exposure of the Papal delusions. — God the defender of his servants in the hour of special danger. — Firmness and courage of the Reformers. — The world involved in a war of principles, which threatened the destruction of the Papal throne. — Britain, emancipated from its thraldom, made the depositary of Scriptural truth. — Sufferings of her martyrs. — Her primitive barbarism and idolatry. — By her twofold emancipation from heathenism and from popery, laid under imperative obligation to communicate the blessings of the Gospel to all mankind.
 
Valiant for the truth.–Jer. ix, 3.
 
When Vengeance, brooding o’er that elder world,
From heaven’s dread storehouse storm and tempest hurl’d,
Rent the dark caverns of the prison’d deep,
And o’er creation bade wild waters sweep,
Then, strangely shelter’d, on the weltering wave
The ark triumphant rode: when Justice gave
To fiery ruin Jordan’s fertile plain,
And pleading Abraham pour’d his prayer in vain,
Then went commission’d angels forth to hide
One sainted pilgrim in the mountain’s side:
When faithless Israel, impious, bow’d the knee
At Baal’s shrine, in foul apostasy,
Jehovah’s grace a remnant seed retain’d,
And hidden thousands firm in faith remain’d.
    In truth immutable, His sovereign power
Thus shields his Church in every perilous hour;
Preserves a sever’d, seal’d, accepted race;
Call’d, chosen, faithful monuments of grace,
The germ of latent life, renew’d to rise
And healthful spread reviving energies;
Beneath a calmer heaven its foliage fair,
Its beauteous bloom and ripen’d fruit to bear;
Around, on high, its vigorous boughs to shoot,
As from the elder oak’s yet vital root
Young branches rise, which, fed by genial rain,
The ancient honours of its trunk sustain,
Their verdant arms in leafy glory raise,
And hide the injuries of darker days.
    Even thus, while loud the cataract torrent roll’d,
While fierce the Arab tiger scour’d the fold,
While Babel Rome its thousand arts essay’d,
Ensnared by subtilty, by wrath dismay’d,
Some loyal hearts the serpent’s wiles withstood,
Defied the storm, and seal’d the truth with blood;
Some, by Jehovah’s hand conceal’d, unknown,
‘Mid mountain glens and desert caves, alone,
As Israel’s seer, by Horeb’s rifted steep,
Laid down the pilgrim’s staff to rest and weep; —  
Some, bold as he, the dire defection view’d,
And dared denounce the’ apostate multitude,
Emerged, as stars, from clouds by tempests chased,
To gild the gloom, and cheer the howling waste.
    But whither, through that long, that dreary night,
Retired apostate Zion’s Orb of Light?
What favour’d clime its cheering rays received?
What unwarp’d nation still the truth believed?
Where fix’d Messiah his unearthly throne?
What realm, obedient to His rule alone,
With steadfast courage spurn’d the’ unholy yoke?
From hell’s foul frauds, its fearful threatenings broke?
Its sternest frown of fiercest wrath sustain’d,
And firm and faithful ‘mid its fires remain’d?
Where rear’d the Church, with consecrated hand,
Its blood-stain’d banner? From what veteran land
Came forth its champion sons, to keep the field,
When myriad hosts, with loss of sword and shield,
Before the conquering foe had basely fled,
Or slept, illustrious, with the faithful dead?
    Piedmont! amid thy unstain’d Alpine snows
Were found that warrior band, who dared oppose,
With shield of faith the persecutor’s sword,
Whose conquering weapon was the living Word.
With thee were found those veteran spirits bold,
Those hands that kept their firm and faithful hold
Of Truth’s palladium bright; who nobly stood,
Even as the rock, beneath the bursting flood,
Which pours its cataracts from thy mountains’ height,
With stormy roar, and foam of rainbow light.
Yes, thy wild woods, thy flinty vales can tell
Of tested firmness, when the tempest fell,
When savage Slaughter stain’d thy streams with gore,
Thy patriot sons from their loved country tore;
Tore as the whirlwind blast uproots the pine,
Whose fibres round thy fissured rocks entwine,
O’erwhelm’d thy little ones, thy matrons pale,
In ruin, such as desolates the vale
When from rent clouds impetuous rains descend,
And beetling crags from frowning mountains rend,
That hurl, in thundering course, the cot, the fold,
The sleeping infant, and the grandsire old,
The flock, the shepherd, to the foaming flood;
At dawn a deluge, where at evening stood
The cheerful hamlet, and the hallow’d fane,
The peopled pasture, and the ripening grain;
Where ruddy Health with calm Contentment dwelt,
And Piety to heaven adoring knelt.
    Hard is the heart of Tyranny, and cold
The breast of Superstition; both of old
Sever’d those sympathetic links that bind
Man, suffering man, to others of his kind.
Savoy! thy sterile, stony heights portray
The ruthless rigours of thy cheerless sway,
Impervious to the soft-descending shower,
Ungenial, even in spring’s expansive hour.
Thee not the suppliant’s prayer could prompt to save
Nor deeds of valour move to spare the brave;
From thee the keen inquisitorial eye
Peer’d baleful forth, in fell malignity
Searching its victim out; or, cold and bright,
Gazing on agony with fix’d delight;
Then, raising its unholy orb on high,
Obtesting heaven’s ethereal sanctity,
And boasting sanction of the tenderest name,
For murderous deeds that cover hell with shame.
    Beneath this iron sceptre, wrong’d, abhorr’d,
Dwelt the meek servants of their suffering Lord;
Like Him, despised and poor, in grief they trod
The blood-stain’d footsteps of incarnate God;
Oppression’s prey, insulted, scourged, reviled,
To deserts driven, and cavern’d mountains wild,
Exiles and wanderers on each distant shore,
Their steadfast witness to the truth they bore;
In mourning garb, their hallow’d faith proclaim’d,
And only Christ, the King, the Saviour, named.
Here, while apostates trod the hallow’d fane,
While demon powers to worship false and vain
Beguiled the crowd, while Sin and Error reign’d, —
By blameless Piety, by Grace sustain’d,
Here Truth, though to a narrow sphere confined,
Diffused its lustre o’er the simple mind,
Resisted night’s encroaching gloom, and dwelt,
As erst the light in Goshen, when was felt
O’er Misraim’s land the darkness of the dead;
Where vapoury spectres their pale horrors shed,
Portending terror to the sons of night,
And deepening darkness by infernal light.
    Heaven asks not mighty agents; to the meek,
The docile, shall the guiding Spirit speak.
He turns from pomp and pageantry, to hide
His secret with the babes whom men deride.
In rustic vales he fix’d his lowly home,
Left the proud splendours of apostate Rome,
And there, with saints, in sorrowing sackcloth dwelt
Whose hallow’d souls the sacred unction felt;
Messiah’s witnesses, whose banners bore
His only name. His cross to whom they swore
Allegiance against each usurping foe,
That ruled on earth, or rose from hell below.
His sacramental host, to him they bow’d,
Nor knelt to Baal, with the idol crowd;
But spurn’d his name, with uncorrupted breath,
Nor parlance held with shrinking fears of death;
But kept the faith, which lives, though life depart,
Which binds the truth to the triumphant heart.
Bears above mortal rage its glorious prize,
With pity views the’ assailant foe, and flies
Up to the Saviour’s throne, to share his victories.
    So triumph’d many a saint, and from that fight
Ascended to a martyr’s throne in light,
Received the palmy wreath, the sparkling crown,
Laid at Messiah’s feet their trophies down,
And join’d with slaughter’d saints of elder days,
To lift the lofty song of heavenly praise.
But Satan’s hosts prevailed not, nor the ire
Of hell’s stern prophet, though with tortures dire,
And dragon terrors arm’d, with sinuous arts,
To wind deception round unwary hearts,
Or, foaming, wrathful, with pestiferous breath,
To dart at once the fiery shaft of death.
Though earth’s discordant elements engaged,
And furious war against the remnant waged;
Yet, grounded on the everlasting Rock,
Unmoved, impregnable, the ocean’s shock,
The windy tempest in its strength they bore,
And, calm, defied the vollied thunder’s roar;
Stood as the city on the mountain’s height,
And through surrounding shades diffused celestial light.
    And still the shepherd tells his pensive tale,
Detains the traveller in his lonely vale,
Or points, amid those rugged mountains steep,
Where snows and storms their stern pavilion keep,
To monuments of sterner suffering, borne
By martyr’d faith,— there, hunted, trampled, torn
By Rome’s fierce dogs, to murderous havoc bred;
There, while his eyes their glistening tribute shed,
He tells of ancient constancy, of truth,
Of patriot love, from hoary age to youth,
Unmingled, as his mountain springs, convey’d,
And prized, and cherish’d still, in Alpine shade;
For still Valensian faith, by guardian grace,
Its fair, untainted lineage lives to trace,
With primal truth alliance, pure, to claim,
A Church unbranded with the apostate’s name.
    Rude in this desert world is Virtue’s lot,
Bleak blows the blast around her rustic cot;
Her scanty board penurious Caution spreads,
And rough and rugged is the soil she treads.
Thus, cheerless, buffeted by boisterous gales,
The Alpine pastor treads his lonely vales:
Yet, lucid, there appears his reverend form,
A peaceful rainbow on the lowering storm;
Mildly on all he sheds his cheering light,
And feeds his flock by day, and guards the fold by night.
    Meek, unsunn’d shepherd of a charge despoil’d,
So rude the clime in which thy Master toil’d!
And thou, like Him, inured to grief and pain,
Must, sorrowing, still the hallow’d cross sustain;
Still must thy spirit weep for Sion’s woes,
As from thy mountains fall dissolving snows;
For still beneath Oppression’s yoke she sighs,
Still tears of sorrow dim her streaming eyes,
And Penury, with sullen grasp, and cold,
Of thy sad charge retains relentless hold;
Constrains, from stranger hands, a boon to crave;
 
A boon, how small to that which once they gave!
How small to that erewhile conferr’d on thee,
Renown’d Britannia! when thy faithless knee
Bow’d to the idol, and thy recreant breast,
Degenerate, bore the stamp, by Rome impress’d!
Then to thy Wickliffe’s lamp their torch they lent;
Its kindling blaze through thy deep darkness sent
A living beam, that broke the cheerless night,
Illustrious presage of approaching light;
Light which ere long illumed the sacred page,
Transpierced the veil, and to a wondering age
Disclosing oracles of truth Divine,
Made in thy native phrase their priceless treasures thine.
    Nor shall Britannia, ever prompt to save,
To cheer the drooping, to applaud the brave,
Whose warm philanthropy, like orient light,
Through every clime directs its glorious flight;
At every call whose warm expansions flow,
Whose generous sons on Mercy’s errands go
To Indus, or the pole, where’er the breeze
Bears gallant vessel o’er the dark blue seas; —
Nor shall Britannia fail the call to meet
Of suff’ering Virtue in her lone retreat;
Of Piety, that nobly kept the field,
When death, and hell, and torture press’d to yield;
That bore the war against a recreant world,
The banner of the blood-stain’d cross unfurl’d,
And fix’d it firm upon the snow-clad steep.
And fought, and bled, and nobly fell, to keep
The sacred ensign from unhallow’d hands,
And stood, a moveless host, against infernal bands.
    Meanwhile the pastor, in his lonely glen,
Bows meekly to the blast; for, not from men
Seeks he his boon of blessing; but, sublime,
O’erlooks the stormy scenery of time,
Towers, like the snow-clad steeps that round him rise,
To meet the sunbeam in the orient skies,
And bears his soul aloft, in glorious hope,
Ere long to pass within the goodly cope
Of those fair heavens, and from a brighter sphere
Look down on torrent streams and sterile mountains drear.
    He loves his native vale; and, poignant, feels
Her deep and cruel wrongs; frequent he kneels
In patient prayer before the Saviour’s throne,
And there, in grief, in meekness, all his own,
Like Judah’s pensive seer, with streaming eyes,
Bemoans his captive Zion’s miseries;
And oft, like him, a whispering angel near
Awakes his soul the Spirit’s voice to hear;
And oft, while silent on the word Divine,
Prayerful he muses, holy splendours shine,
And Faith, with eagle vision, bright, beholds
Those distant scenes which prescient Heaven unfolds,
When clouds no more shall veil the’ eternal Light,
Nor envious vapours wrap the world in night;
When every foe Messiah’s rule shall own,
And, suppliant, bend before his conquering throne;
When those who here the path of suffering trod
Shall bear the glory of the sons of God.
He sees the Church in stainless robes array’d
In hallow’d rest beneath the Bridegroom’s shade;
He sees, and cheers his suffering charge obscure,
Meekly he bids them to the end endure;
Ere long the lambs upon the Shepherd’s breast,
The burthen’d, led by Him, shall safely rest
Where no annoying foes, no beast of prey,
Shall prowling wait to bear his charge away;
But fast by still, meandering streamlets led,
In fertile vales and dewy pastures fed,
Celestial peace shall crown the sacred hours,
And mountains, desert once, bring forth ambrosial flowers.
    He has seen many winters; o’er his head
The almond’s sprays their silvery whiteness shed,
And his pale cheek, though furrow’d deep by time,
Yet holds an interest which not manhood’s prime,
Tinted with health and beauty, can impart;
His mild, clear eye bespeaks the feeling heart;
Grace has sublimed his nature; the bright rays
Of heaven-born science cheer’d his opening days;
Nor Penury, nor harsh Oppression’s power,
Nor pale Disease, nor life’s declining hour,
Has quench’d the ardours of his fervent mind;
But still his lips, in eloquence refined,
Distil the dews of wisdom; and the page
Of classic lore, familiar to his age,
Attests, that deep in early youth he sought
The gems of knowledge in the mine of thoughts
    As purple clouds on western skies outspread,
O’er setting suns intenser glory shed,
So Pain and Penury, and darkling Grief,
Set Virtue forth in bright and strong relief:
And thus, ‘mid Sorrow’s pensive shades, declines
The Pastor’s sun, and more resplendent shines,
More gorgeous, as it falls; his mountains, bold,
Catch the rich crimson and the burnish’d gold;
His ridgy rocks receive the parting beam.
Starlike it glitters on the tranquil stream;
It sinks, illustrious, — sinks again to rise,
And pour new glories o’er unchanging skies:
Bright in heaven’s sapphire firmament to glow,
Far, far from storms, that roar and rage below,
Where no horizon shall its splendours bound,
But one eternal day with brightening beams be crown’d.
    As from the driving storm the cavern’d rock
Spreads its broad shelter o’er the new-shorn flock,
Or, fervid while meridian sunbeams beat,
With friendly shade protects from sultry heat,
So Alpine heights their towering summits raised,
To shield the stricken Church; while, ardent, blazed
Fierce Persecution’s baleful orb on high,
And scowling tempests dimm’d the azure sky:
There, her black wings while bi’ooding Darkness spread,
Celestial Truth its holy lustre shed;
There burn’d the lamp before the sacred shrine,
The verdant olive bore its fruit Divine;
There glow’d the bush in unconsuming flame,
The Spirit there inscribed the mystic name;
There walk’d the Saviour Son, and, bright sustain’d
The stars that roll’d in radiance unprofaned.
    Yet not to moantain glens, to rocks confined,
Must Truth dwell ever: for the world design’d,
Divergent as the sun’s its beams must shine,
And fill the universe with light Divine.
Short is the triumph of the proud! In vain
The powers of hell withstand Messiah’s reign;
In vain earth’s potentates in leagued strife
Unite with hell against the Lord of life;
His eye looks forth upon their dark array,—
The alien armies, troubled, fade away:
He frowns, and heavily their chariots roll;
Their day is dimness; vex’d, perturb’d in soul,
They urge their course against his vengeful ire,
Or fly in terror from his glance of fire.
In vain; for vengeance rolls with stormy sweep,
And horse and rider perish in the deep.
    God reigns in peerless Majesty! With light,
His own pure efflux, as a curtain, bright,
He veils the awful glories of his throne;
Deep in eternity he dwells alone;
Bids angel powers perform his perfect will,
Or earth the counsels of his word fulfil;
Heaven’s first-born seraph to his footstool brings,
Or highest purpose works by meanest things;
That all in earth, that all in heaven may own,
The strength, the wisdom, flow from him alone;
To Him alone in prostrate worship bend,
Their life, their bliss, their origin, and end.
    Hark! in the camp of Midian! ‘Tis the cry
Of those who fall in battle I those who fly
From the pursuing foe!
Yet wherefore fear?
Stay, Amalek, no mighty host is near:
And thou, in warlike panoply array’d,
Like locusts camp’d beneath the summer shade,
Liest stretch’d in countless thousands o’er the plain,
Compact as barrier sands that bound the main.
Why faints thy trembling heart? What strange affright
Pervades thy tents, and turns the deadly fight,
Desperate, against thyself?
That fatal dread
Jehovah sends! Beneath his banners led,
The valorous Abiezrite’s slender band
Shall rescue Israel from thy powerful hand;
Rend from thy brow its costly splendours, bright,
And urge, resistless, thy inglorious flight.
    And such was He, as Gideon, unrenown’d,
That master spirit, by Jehovah crown’d
With light, and energy, and zeal, and love;
Whose soul of fire, enkindled from above,
Whose dauntless mind a mightier work achieved
Than Israel’s sons from Midian’s yoke retrieved.
Yes, such an instrument, unheeded, small,
Received the quickening Spirit’s earliest call
To rise and burst the thraldom of the mind;
To break the fetters that enslaved mankind,
To sound the trump in Superstition’s ear,
To bid the tents of Babel quake for fear,
To wield the Spirit’s sword with conquering might,
To urge Apostasy’s dark hosts to flight,
To dim the jewel in Imposture’s crown,
And cast the blood-stain’d shrines of Baal down.
    ‘Tis sweet, when Winter’s tempest clouds retire,
To hear the music of the woodland quire;
To see fresh verdure deck the leafless grove,
The pure, clear sun through heaven’s blue pathway move,
New life, new beauty, start from every spray,
Green Earth rejoicing, and her tenants gay.
‘Tis sweet, at early dawn, to mark the light
With silvery pencil streak the shades of night;
To view the morn her pearly gates unfold,
The glorious sun expand his wings of gold;
To watch the mountains catch his dazzling blaze,
Soft, dewy flowers return his glistering rays;
To taste the fragrant breeze, the freshening gale,
Fair Nature in her orient charms to hail.
‘Tis sweet to rise from subterranean gloom,
The dark recesses of earth’s cavern’d womb;
To meet once more the light of healthful day,
‘Mid moss-grown steeps, and rocky ridges gray,
To mark the limpid streams, translucent, flow,
Emerging, bright, from secret springs below;
To bless the broad and beauteous landscape, fair,
To feel reviving heat, and breathe elastic air.
    But sweeter, fairer, than returning spring,
Than morn advancing on empurpled wing,
Than cheerful day, to him whose wandering feet
Have follow’d Nature through her lone retreat,
Returns celestial Truth, with holy light
To chase the gloom of Error’s darkling night;
With genial warmth to burst the chains that bind
In icy winter man’s immortal mind;
To melt, as vapoury wreaths, the mists exhaled
From Superstition’s caves, where, dark, prevail’d
The sorceries of hell.
With upward flight
The morn’s sweet minstrel hails returning light;
So, joyous, spreads the Muse her weary wing,
Escaped from’ prosperous Falsehood, glad to sing
Thy triumphs, heavenly Truth! Thy glorious form,
As sunbeams, radiant, ‘mid the passing storm,
To view, once more, in holy beauty rise,
Chasing dim vapours from sad wintry skies;
The foul creations of chaotic shade,
Before thy light, as baseless phantoms, fade,
And earth’s reviving, re-illumined sphere
Again looks forth, dispels her coward fear, 
And, eager, hails thy bright returning ray,
The joyous presage of a perfect day.
    From deepest darkness wakes the morning light;
O’er dense, dim clouds the rainbow arches bright;
Resistless courage rises from despair,
And Truth, though wrong’d, is Heaven’s peculiar care.
    Truth, fairest guest, that from celestial spheres
Deign’st visit this low world, how oft by tears
Has thy rude path been water’d! and thy feet
Have felt the flinty rock! Thy lone retreat
Has been the mountain cave, the desolate glen,
Where, from the tyrannous pursuit of men,
Thou hadst retired to hide thee, when their rage
‘Gainst Heaven and thee presumed fierce war to wage.
But thou wast born for empire; and thy reign,
As multitudinous waves o’erspread the main,
Shall cover this wide earth. The proud shall stoop,
As flowers of grass beneath the sunbeam droop,
Before thy regal sceptre; the rough wind
Up in its stormy wings thy foes shall bind,
And bear them to the wilderness away;
Whilst thou, sublime in glory, shalt display
From thy pure throne the diadem and sword,
And triumph o’er a universe restored.
    Long had the desolate earth in grief, and pain,
And deep debasement, dragg’d the ponderous chain
Of Antichristian rule. In fetters bound,
Alike, the prince and peasant press’d the ground;
While, on his lawless throne, Messiah’s foe,
Exulting, spurn’d the abject crowd below:
When, lo! a seed of life, in secret cast
Into the sterile earth, evolved at last.
Protrusive soon the rising blade appear’d,
A grateful verdure Nature’s dulness cheer’d,
And Hope, rekindling, strove to aid the soil
By timely culture and continuous toil;
While suns from heaven their genial influence shed,
And fostering earth with vital juices fed.
    From Saxon soil that germ in weakness sprung;
While, damp and drear, the mists of Winter hung
Yet on the cheerless earth, and opening Spring
Met rude repulses from his rugged wing.
‘Mid frosts and storms, and many a poisonous weed,
And tangling thorn, a small and scanty seed,
Awhile the rising shoots unheeded grew,
Their stalks were slender, and their ears were few.
Unlabouring husbandmen, in soft repose,
Despised the weak, the slender plants that rose
Beneath rank weeds and unpropitious skies;
Till, lo! unsightly to their jaundiced eyes,
From deep-struck roots full golden ears at length
Waved bright in beauty, and stood firm in strength;
With copious harvest crown’d the tiller’s toil,
And yielded healthful seed for distant soil.
    High in the annals of that hallow’d fame,
Which registers full many a conquering name,
Stands forth that champion for the truth, whose might
Durst, singly, dare Goliah to the fight;
Drew from his humble scrip the slender stone,
And hurl’d it at the apostatic throne;
Whose firm and noble prowess, bold, defied
The Philistine, in all his power and pride,
Assail’d the close compacted-ranks that stood
Around their chief, whose fierce and fiery mood
Had wither’d even the valorous, and whose arts
Had captived to destruction countless hearts;
Hell’s specious emissaries, train’d beneath
In aspen gall to steep the shafts of death.
    Luther! thy name, revered, the Church shall bless;
Long as her pale retains its witnesses
To truths thy heaven-illumined eye discern’d,
While yet the lamp of Superstition burn’d
Dim on her desecrated shrines; while, high,
Blazed the broad noontide of Idolatry;
While shameless Vice, unmask’d, her form display’d,
And Sin, in sacerdotal vest array’d,
Enticed the stranger to the downward way,
And sued for bribes to lead the blind astray;
Commuted crime for gold, and dared dispense
License to disobey Omnipotence.
    Then, as from smitten steel, the kindling spark
Glow’d in thy fervent bosom; all was dark
Around, beneath  but, wafted from on high,
Came secret airs, that fann’d it silently:
‘Mid cloister’d aisles, and lonely vigils nursed,
At length that prison’d flame, impetuous, burst,
Wide, deep, and high, electric impulse spread,
With brilliant haloes wreathed thy honour’d head,
And mark’d thee, chosen by high Heaven, to stand
The valorous leader of truth’s champion band.
It was an arduous post; nor giant might
Of unarm’d mortal could sustain that fight,
Could bear the war against the powers of hell,
Withstand their countless hosts invisible,
Undaunted meet the dragon’s fiery breath,
Chafe the gaunt lion in the bound of death,
Could grapple with the hydra form of Strife,
Despising danger, liberty, and life,
Contemn reproach, contumely, and scorn,
Or menace dire of Pride’s uplifted horn.
    Stern was the task, nor less than his of old,
Reproving angel of false Israel’s fold,
Whose wondrous prayer of faith, whose voice of ire,
Restrain’d the heavens, or drew forth shafts of fire,
Yet, clothed alone in panoply of zeal,
Of truth, of righteousness, than mailed steel
Less vulnerable to assailant darts
Of tyrant earth, or hell’s insidious arts,
Forth to the war the’ anointed champion came,
Unfurl’d his banners in Jehovah’s name,
Proclaim’d the truth, the ancient faith declared,
Nor demon powers, nor Rome’s apostate spared;
But open’d wide the Volume from above,
Unseal’d the counsels of Eternal Love;
On eyes long dimm’d, celestial radiance pour’d,
The hallow’d mystery of grace restored,
One only mediatorial Priesthood show’d,
One Name alone through which salvation flow’d;
While demon rites, and desecrated shrines,
And idol mockeries, and delusive signs,
Like melting snows beneath the solar ray,
Before the beam of truth to darkness pass’d away.
    Truth warr’d and conquer’d, till the angry foe,
To vengeance roused, prepared his deadly blow,
And, full-inflated with presumptuous pride,
Deem’d his foul breath might sweep the storm aside;
That, arm’d with giant strength, with thunders dire,
With scourge of torture, and with stings of fire,
His potent hand might spurn the’ aspiring foe,
With single stroke lay bold Intrusion low;
That stern anathemas, indignant hurl’d
From Baal’s heights, as erst, would awe the world,
The recreant rebel to his footstool bring,
A fetter’d bond-slave of the’ apostate king.
    God, in the hour of danger, with his shield
Defends the uncover’d head: the foe may wield,
With potent hand, his bright and ponderous blade;
He is invincible whom heavenly aid
Sustains and fortifies, though round him fly
The fiery shafts of death, or ambush’d lie
Myriads of foes malign, whose secret snares
Beset his dangerous path. Whom God prepares
His instrument of judgment or of grace,
He, clothed with immortality, his race
Shall unobstructed run, though hell oppose,
And earth with banded armies round him close.
    Beneath the shield of Heaven, thus Luther stood;
And thus the firm and holy brotherhood
Who fought with him beneath the sacred sign,
In earnest contest for the faith Divine!
In vain loud-pealing papal thunders roar’d;
In vain wild waters the fell dragon pour’d;
Nor persecution’s flood restrain’d their course,
Nor curses, launch’d with dire demoniac force;
Nor Pain, nor Death, whose dark and dread array,
Like gather’d clouds, frown’d dimly o’er their way,
Could check the progress of the sons of light,
Or chase their conquering standard from the fight;
Till earth, amazed, beheld them from afar,
And slumbering nations roused to furious war.
    To furious war: not such as erst they waged
When only in the spoiler’s bosom raged
Rude, barbarous thirst of prey; not war, whose hand
Clench’d, blood-bedropp’d, his blade, from land to land
Sweeping on gorgon wing, to earn the name
Of greatness, ill applied by babbling Fame
To monsters of mankind; not war, whose stroke
Assail’d the diadem, or, ponderous, broke
The curious carvings of the ivory throne.
It was the strife of mind, the contest known
To hosts invisible, whose mightier strength,
Array’d in dire collision, through the length
Of circling ages, in firm phalanx dread,
By seraphim and fallen archangel led,
Darkness with light have warr’d. It was the soul
In struggle ‘gainst the long-usurp’d control
Of hell’s unnatural bondage. ‘Twas the cry,
Too long repress’d, of heaven-born energy,
Resolved to claim its birthright, to explore
The hidden mine of truth, deceived no more
By fraud and falsehood, with delusive lies,
Forged in dark limbo, of hell’s vanities.
‘Twas science, from barbarian night emerged,
Confronted with foul craft. ‘Twas Truth that urged
Her sword of proof, that held her torch on high,
Struck the broad visor from Hypocrisy,
That from the saturnine and rayless ball
Of odious Ignorance, the muffling pall,
The blinding fillet, and the scale, withdrew.
Averse from light, on vampire wing she flew
To haunt obscurer scenes; for not in strife
Of virtuous energies her streamless life
Its leaden pulse sustains.
Such strife was there:
Truth, Conscience, Liberty, and Virtue fair,
In glorious war, assail’d the hosts of Pride:
Heaven own’d the contest, nor its aid denied.
    It was a well-fought day. But on that field
What thousands fell! What myriad martyrs seal’d
The sacred truth with blood! They loved not life,
Retain’d no compromise with hell; but strife
And righteous quarrel with its hosts preferr’d:
For, lo, a Voice, amid the conflict heard,
Proclaim’d the triumphs of the faithful dead!
They saw Messiah’s conquering armies led,
Victorious, by himself, the King of kings;
And, upward borne on Faith’s expanded wings,
Felt not the stroke by which the galled foe
Laid the frail frame in dust; nor could that blow
Ungrasp the veteran hand that nobly held
Its proud palladium, and in death repell’d,
On Faith’s bright shield, the keen, insidious dart,
By falsehood sped, against the loyal heart,
That even in falling o’er the foe prevail’d,
And in the hour of glad departure hail’d
Advancing ranks, who to the conflict came,
Baptized into the conquering warrior’s name,
Pledged on that consecrated field to die,
And follow him to immortality,
Or bear aloft the sacramental sign,
Unstain’d, and waving to the sacred shrine,
To swell the triumphs of Messiah’s sway,
And at his feet their hallow’d trophies lay.
    Then shook the throne on many waters raised;
In deep suspense the wondering nations gazed;
The sorceress trembled, while her deeds of night
Stood blazoned forth beneath the searching light
Of Truth’s detecting beam. With murmuring swell
The tide of indignation rose and fell;
Beneath her feet the cleaving depths were seen,
And Babylon’s intoxicated queen
Even then had perish’d, but inebriate kings
Flew to her rescue, as on eagles’ wings;
Awhile her shatter’d, tottering throne sustained,
And sharers in her sins and plagues remain’d.
    Albion, thrice bless’d! in that eventful hour
Thy lofty spirit spurn’d the tyrant’s power,
Cast from thy limbs her sever’d chains, and broke
From thy proud neck the captive’s galling yoke.
No longer couch’d beneath the guilty sway
Of Babylon, thy lordly lion lay:
Thy shield and sword were with her foes, thy land
A sacred refuge from her murderous hand,
And thy stern sons against her treacherous arts
With Truth’s impervious breastplate mail’d their hearts,
Dash’d from their lips her deleterious wine,
Renounced her faith, and sought the grace Divine.
    Not unpursued, from that unhallow’d fold,
Retired thy sons, Britannia! Still her hold
The sorceress queen essay’d by force to keep,
And placed her wolves among thy bleating sheep;
But, severed from the triple crown, a blaze
Of clustering gems diffused celestial rays,
And o’er thee shed a purer, holier light
Than warrior kings, renown’d in fields of fight,
Who round thy brows the laurel wreath entwined,
Waved thy proud ensigns in the distant wind,
Bright on thy shield their martial trophies hung,
And made thy praise the theme of every tongue.
Yes, thou canst boast thy martyr band, whose light,
Like brilliant stars amid the gloom of night,
Illumed the darkness of thy stormy skies,
And cast the halo of their victories
Around thy calmer sphere; who bore the shock
Malific, as the adamantine rock
Repels the tempest’s rage; nor scorching flame,
Nor whelming floods, their dauntless faith o’ercame:
As tested gold beneath the fire it glow’d,
As unmix’d silver from the furnace flow’d,
Received the impress of the Name Divine,
And bore the standard of the sacred shrine.
    Yes, highly favour’d! Heaven vouchsafed to thee
Champions for truth, who earn’d their victory
By conflict, even to blood; whose hallow’d zeal
The firm foundations of thy future weal
Laid in the damp, incarcerating gloom
Of many a prison vault and lonely tomb,
Whose dread descent through no still chambers lay,
But Torture pointed out the dreary way,
And Agony, with writhing aspect dire,
Led on, through scorching flames and penetrating fire.
‘Mid scenes like these, of peril, suffering, strife,
Surmounted danger and surrender’d life,
Thy temple from surrounding ruins rose,
And Israel’s God in thee his sanctuary chose.
    A stranger once, in Gentile darkness nursed,
A slave, in Superstition’s dreams immersed,
‘Mid Druid groves a blood-stain’d wanderer wild,
By demons to infernal rites beguiled,
Thee Mercy visited, and bade thee rise,
Abjure barbarian, murderous mysteries,
A holier Name in holier acts adore,
Pollute the’ ensanguined earth with crimes no more;
But lift the suppliant prayer, the streaming eye,
And view the herald of salvation nigh,
And raptured listen, while his cheerful voice
With echoing gladness bade thy wilds rejoice.
    Heaven call’d thee, unbeloved, its grace to share;
Thee, alien once, a Father’s tenderest care
Reclaim’d and cherish’d; yet seductive wiles,
Unhallow’d lure of Rome’s apostate smiles,
Won thy unwary feet from Wisdom’s way:
Again, benignant Mercy pour’d the ray
Of living light upon thy path, and show’d,
From Error’s labyrinth wide, the upward road
That led thee back to life; to thee consign’d
The lamp of truth, to lead and cheer mankind,
With watchful care the sacred flame to tend,
Reflect its brightness, and its beams extend,
Till o’er the universe its splendours flow,
And every darken’d clime with holy radiance glow.
    Britannia, tune thy lyre to loftiest lays;
Make thy woods vocal with enraptured praise;
Strike thy sweet harp, and o’er the emerald sea
Send sacred sounds of solemn melody.
Let distant isles thy grateful triumphs know;
To distant isles thy great salvation show;
And, lowly, learn, that not alone for thee
Shines the bright symbol of Divinity
Within thy hallow’d shrine. Go, worship there;
Go, purge thy earth-born spirit, and prepare
On seraph wing to soar through every clime,
The holy herald of that sound sublime
That summon ransom’d souls to life and light,
From death’s dread confines and the realms of night.
    The world awaits thy teaching; from the bound
Of the bleak north, with icy circles crown’d,
To where the southern wave impetuous pours
Its crested foam on rude Magellan’s shores;
Where either India courts the torrid beams;
Where rolls Columbia its majestic streams;
Amid Caucasian snows where Tartars rove;
Where balmy spices scent the Syrian grove;
Where Egypt’s sullen devastations spread
Stupendous ruin round the mighty dead;
Beneath her blasted palm tree, on the ground,
Where Judah sits, in servile fetters bound;
Where distant islands stud the hoary deep;
On sterile shores where stormy billows sweep;
Where Ethiopia spreads its scorching sands;
Where Niger rolls through undiscover’d lands;
Where Afric’s mountains meet the western wave,
And yield to ruthless chains the sable slave;
Where wild and free the swarthy savage roams;
With baleful lustre, on her gilded domes,
Where Mecca’s planet gleams; where Grecia’s isles
In lovely beauty bask in nature’s smiles,
Yet pine, unvisited with heavenly life,
In formless chaos of tumultuous strife; —
These wait thy gallant barks, which buoyant ride
On the rough ridge of every rolling tide,
And earnest ask that sacred boon from thee,
By which thyself, a captive, wast made free,
Establish’d on thy sea-girt throne, and placed,
The Queen of nations, in the watery waste.
    Gem of the ocean, whose pellucid light
Shines like the sun’s in every region bright,
O’er the green earth, and o’er the dark blue sea
Thy banners wave; the wreath of victory,
In verdant freshness, shrouds thy lofty brow;
Ambition’s crested plumes before thee bow;
Thy nervous arm upholds the ample shield
Against misrule and anarchy; the field
Of science yields its harvest to thy sway;
To thee the Arts and sister Muses pay
The tributary meed, wreathing with flowers
Thy sculptured columns and thy rural bowers;
And fairer, as thy bright adornment shine,
Not the vast circus, or the dazzling shrine,
Gorgeous with idle trophies, but the home
Of orphans doom’d in penury to roam;
The house of mercy for the maim’d, the blind;
The covert from the storms that vex mankind,
From all the woes that sympathy can share,
The wants that charity can make her care;
The porch where bland Instruction trains thy youth
In paths of wisdom, and in words of truth;
The sacred fane, the holy house of prayer,
That heavenward rise, and for that heaven prepare;-
These are the monuments that grace thy land;
These on thy happier soil more glorious stand
Than sculptured forms by Grecian genius wrought,
Or proud emblazon’d wars by Roman valour fought.
    Yet higher efforts claim thy zeal, thy love,
For largest blessings granted from above;
Heaven to thy hand the lamp of truth consign’d:
‘Tis thine, with grateful heart, to all mankind
Its quickening, guiding, cheering beams to show,
O’er earth’s dark bounds to bid its glories flow.
‘Tis thine, Messiah’s messenger of grace,
To bear his summons to the sinful race;
Glory to God, salvation to proclaim,
And peace with Heaven through one Eternal Name;
The Gentiles for the marriage feast prepare.
And call a wandering world the rich repast to share;
Even Israel’s ancient alien house to bring,
And bid the weary exiles own their king;
On the strong basis of the moveless stone
To rear the structure of that conquering throne
Whose power, uprooting hell’s infernal sway,
Earth’s proudest sceptres in the dust shall lay,
O’erturn the sepulchre, and burst the tomb,
Pervade the precincts of perpetual gloom,
Confound each adverse power beneath, above,
And bear the triumphs of Eternal love.
    Unfurl thy sails, thy pennon bright display;
Bid thy proud vessels plough the watery way,
To every clime the joyful tidings bear,
In every land Messiah’s way prepare;
Bid mountains sink, deep, delving valleys rise;
Clear the rude plain; the rock’s asperities
Let Labour’s hand to level smoothness bring.
Haste; and the dwellers on its heights shall sing
Hosannas to the Lord; the rolling sea
On its wild waves shall bear their melody.
Winds wait to waft the joyous echo round,
Expectant isles salute the welcome sound;
Unmeasured continents their shores extend,
The listening ear rude desert-wanderer’s bend;
Creation, burthen’d, waits deliverance nigh:
Britannia, haste! on wings of mercy fly!
Salvation to a ransom’d world dispense;
Unfold the treasures of Omnipotence;
Fulfil the high behest, the charge assign’d, —
Evangelists! discipling all mankind,
Send forth thy consecrated sons to claim
The purchased nations in Messiah’s name! 
 
Book XII
 
Table of Contents

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