Upon the Divine Attributes.
A Pindaric Essay.
〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Sophoc.
1 Whence sprung this glorious Frame, or when began
2 Things to Exist, they could not always be?
3 To what stupendous Energy
4 Shall we ascribe the Origin of Man?
5 That Cause, from whence all Beings else arose,
6 Must Self-existent be alone,
7 Intirely perfect, and but One:
8 Nor Equal, nor Superior knows;
9 Two firsts, in Reason, we can ne'er suppose.
10 If that, in false Opinion, we allow,
11 That once there absolutely Nothing was,
12 Then Nothing could Be now:
13 For by what Instrument, or how
14 Shall Non-Existence to Existence pass?
15 Thus Something must from Everlasting be,
16 Or Matter, or a Deity. [Page 91]
17 If Matter only uncreate we grant,
18 We shall Volition, Wit, and Reason want;
19 An Agent infinite, and Action free,
20 Whence does Volition, whence does Reason flow?
21 How came we to Reflect, Design, and Know?
22 This from a nobler Nature springs,
23 Distinct in Essence from Material Things;
24 For Thoughtless Matter cannot Thought bestow.
25 But if we own a God Supream,
26 And all Perfection's possible in him:
27 In him does boundless Excellence reside,
28 Power to Create, and Providence to Guide.
29 Unmade himself, could no Beginning have,
30 But to all Substance prime Existence gave;
31 Can, what he will Destroy, and what he pleases Save.
32 The undesigning Hand of giddy Chance,
33 Could never fill with Globes of Light,
34 So beautiful, and so amazing Bright,
35 The lofty Concave of the vast Expanse;
36 These could proceed from no less Power than Infinite.
37 There's not one Atom of this wond'rous Frame,
38 Nor Essence Intellectual, but took
39 Existence, when the great Creator spoke,
40 And from the common Womb of empty Nothing came.
41 Let Substance be, He cry'd, and strait arose
42 Angelick, and Corporeal too,
43 All that Material Nature shows,[Page 92]
44 And what does Things Invisible compose,
45 At the same Instant sprung, and into Being flew.
46 Mount to the Convex of the highest Sphere,
47 Which draws a mighty Circle round
48 Th' interior Orbs, as their capacious Bound,
49 There Millions of new Miracles appear;
50 There dwell the eldest Sons of Power Immense,
51 Who first were to Perfection wrought,
52 First to compleat Existence brought,
53 To whom their Maker did dispense
54 The largest Portions of created Excellence.
55 Eternal now, not of Necessity,
56 As if they could not cease to be,
57 Or were from possible Destruction free.
58 But on the Will of God depend,
59 For that, which could begin, can end.
60 Who, when the lower Worlds were made,
61 Without the least Miscarriage, or Defect
62 By the Almighty Architect,
63 United Adoration paid,
64 And with Exstatick Gratitude his Laws obey'd.
65 Philosophy of old, in vain essay'd
66 To tell us, how this mighty Frame
67 Into such beauteous Order came;
68 But by false Reasonings, false Foundations laid,
69 She labour'd hard, but still the more she wrought,
70 The more was wilder'd in the Maze of Thought. [Page 93]
71 Sometimes she fancy'd things to be
72 Coeval with the Deity,
73 And in the Form, which now they are
74 From everlasting Ages were.
75 Sometimes the casual Event
76 Of Atoms floating in a space Immense,
77 Void of all Wisdom, Rule, and Sense,
78 But, by a lucky Accident,
79 Tumbled into this Scheme of wond'rous Excellence.
80 'Twas an establish'd Article of old
81 Chief of the Philosophick Creed,
82 And does in Natural Productions hold,
83 That from meer Nothing, Nothing could proceed:
84 Material Substance never could have rose,
85 If some Existence had not been before,
86 In Wisdom Infinite, Immense in Power,
87 Whate'er is made, a Maker must suppose,
88 As an Effect, a Cause, that could produce it shows.
89 Nature and Art indeed have Bounds assign'd,
90 And only Form to Things, not Being, give,
91 That, from Omnipotence they must receive:
92 But the Eternal Self-existent Mind,
93 Can with a single Fiat cause to be
94 All, that the wond'ring Eye surveys,
95 And all, it cannot see.
96 Nature may shape a beauteous Tree,
97 And Art a noble Palace raise,
98 But must not to Creative Power aspire;
99 That, their great God alone can claim,
100 As Pre-existing Substance doth require;
101 So where they Nothing find, can Nothing Frame.
102 Matter produc'd had still a Chaos been,
103 For Jarring Elements engag'd,
104 Eternal Battles would have wag'd,
105 And fill'd with endless Horror the tumultuous Scene;
106 If Wisdom Infinite, for less
107 Could not the vast prodigious Embrio wield,
108 Or Strength compleat to labouring Nature yield,
109 Had not with actual Address
110 Compos'd the bellowing Hurry, and establish'd Peace.
111 Whate'er this visible Creation shows
112 That's lovely, uniform, and bright.
113 That gilds the Morning, or adorns the Night,
114 To her its Eminence and Beauty owes.
115 By her all Creatures have their Ends assign'd,
116 Proportion'd to their Nature, and their Kind;
117 To which they steadily advance,
118 Mov'd by right-Reason's high Command,
119 Or guided by the secret Hand
120 Of real Instinct, not imaginary Chance.
121 Nothing, but Men, reject her sacred Rules,
122 Who from the End of their Creation fly,
123 And deviate into Misery;
124 As if the liberty to act like Fools
125 Were the chief Cause, that Heaven made 'em free.
126 Bold is the Wretch, and blasphemous the Man,
127 Who, Finite, will attempt to Scan
128 The Works of Him that's infinitely Wise,
129 And those he cannot Comprehend, denies;
130 As if a space Immense were measurable by a Span.
131 Thus the proud Sceptick will not own
132 That Providence the World directs,
133 Or its Affair inspects,
134 But leaves it to it self alone.
135 How does it with Almighty Grandeur suit,
136 To be concern'd with our Impertinence;
137 Or interpose his Power for the Defence
138 Of a poor Mortal, or a senseless Brute?
139 Villains could never so successful prove,
140 And unmolested in those Pleasures live,
141 Which Honour, Ease, and Affluence give:
142 While such as Heaven adore, and Virtue love,
143 And most the care of Providence deserve,
144 Oppress'd with Pain, and Ignominy starve.
145 What Reason can the wisest show,
146 Why Murder does unpunish'd go?
147 If the most High, that's Just and Good,
148 Intends and governs all below;
149 And yet regards not the loud Cries of guiltless Blood.
150 But shall we things unsearchable deny,
151 Because our Reason cannot tell us why
152 They are allow'd or acted by the Deity? [Page 96]
153 'Tis equally above the reach of Thought
154 To comprehend, how Matter should be brought
155 From Nothing, as Existent be
156 From all Eternity.
157 And yet that Matter is, we feel and see,
158 Nor is it easier to define
159 What Ligatures the Soul and Body join:
160 Or how the Mem'ry does th' Impression take
161 Of Things, and to the Mind restores 'em back.
162 Did not th' Almighty, with immediate Care,
163 Direct and govern this capacious All,
164 How soon would things into Confusion fall;
165 Earthquakes the trembling Ground would tear,
166 And blazing Comets rule the troubled Air.
167 Wide Inundations with resistless force
168 The lower Provinces o'erflow,
169 In spight of all that Human Strength could do,
170 To stop a raging Sea's impetuous Course:
171 Murder and Rapine ev'ry place would fill,
172 And sinking Virtue stoop to prosp'rous Ill.
173 Devouring Pestilences rave,
174 And all that part of Nature which has Breath,
175 Deliver to the Tyranny of Death,
176 And hurry to the Dungeons of the Grave,
177 If watchful Providence were not concern'd to save.
178 Let the brave Soldier speak, who oft has been
179 In dreadful Sieges, and fierce Battles seen;
180 How he's preserv'd, when Bombs, and Bullets fly[Page 97]
181 So thick, that scarce one Inch of Air is free;
182 And tho' he does ten Thousand see
183 Fall at his Feet, and in a Moment die,
184 Unhurt retreats, or gains unhurt the Victory.
185 Let the poor Ship-wreck'd Sailor show,
186 To what invisible protecting Power
187 He did his Life and Safety owe,
188 When the loud Storm his well-built Vessel tore,
189 And half a shatter'd Plank convey'd him to the Shore.
190 Nay, let th' ungrateful Sceptick tell us, how
191 His tender Infancy protection found,
192 And helpless Childhood was with safety crown'd,
193 If he'll no Providence allow?
194 When he had nothing but his Nurse's Arms
195 To guard him from innumerable fatal Harms.
196 From Childhood, how to Youth he ran
197 Securely, and from thence to Man?
198 How in the Strength and Vigour of his Years,
199 The feeble Bark of Life he saves,
200 Amidst the Fury of tempestuous Waves,
201 From all the Dangers he foresees, or fears;
202 Yet ev'ry Hour 'twixt Scylla and Charibdis steers;
203 If Providence, which can the Seas command,
204 Held not the Rudder with a steady Hand?
205 'Tis happy for the Sons of Men, that He,
206 Who all Existence out of nothing made,
207 Supports his Creatures by immediate Aid;[Page 98]
208 But then this All-intending Deity
209 Must Omnipresent be.
210 For how shall we, by Demonstration, show
211 The Godhead is this Moment here,
212 If he's not present ev'ry where;
213 And always so?
214 What's not perceptable by Sense, may be
215 Ten thousand Miles remote from me,
216 Unless his Nature is from Limitation free.
217 In vain we for Protection pray;
218 For Benefits receiv'd high Altars raise,
219 And offer up our Hymns and Praise;
220 In vain his Anger dread, or Laws obey.
221 An absent God from Ruin can defend
222 No more, than can an absent Friend;
223 No more is capable to know
224 How gratefully we make returns,
225 When the loud Musick sounds, and Victim burns,
226 Than a poor Indian Slave of Mexico.
227 If so, 'tis equally in vain,
228 The Prosp'rous sings, and Wretched mourns;
229 He cannot hear the Praise, or mitigate the Pain.
230 But by what Being is confin'd
231 The God-head we adore?
232 He must have equal, or superior Power:
233 If equal only, they each other bind;
234 So neither's God if we define him right,
235 For neither's Infinite:
236 But if the other have superior Might,[Page 99]
237 Then him, we worship, can't pretend to be
238 Omnipotent, and free
239 From all Restraint, and so no Deity.
240 If God is limited in Space, his View,
241 His Knowledge, Power, and Wisdom is so too:
242 Unless we'll own that these Perfections are
243 At all times present ev'ry where;
244 Yet he himself not actually there.
245 Which to suppose, this strange Conclusion brings,
246 His Essence, and his Attributes are diff'rent things.
247 As the Supream Omniscient Mind
248 Is by no Boundaries confin'd,
249 So Reason must acknowledge him to be
250 From possible Mutation free;
251 For what He is, he was from all Eternity.
252 Change, whether the Effect of Force, or Will,
253 Must argue Imperfection still.
254 But Imperfection in a Deity
255 That's absolutely perfect, cannot be:
256 Who can compel, without his own consent,
257 A God to Change, that is Omnipotent?
258 And ev'ry Alteration without Force,
259 Is for the better, or the worse:
260 He that is infinitely Wise,
261 To alter for the worse will never chuse,
262 That, a Depravity of Nature shews;[Page 100]
263 And he, in whom all true Perfection lies,
264 Cannot by Change to greater Excellencies rise.
265 If God be mutable; which way, or how
266 Shall we demonstrate, that will please him now,
267 Which did a thousand Years ago?
268 And 'tis impossible to know
269 What he forbids, or what he will allow.
270 Murder, Inchantment, Lust, and Perjury,
271 Did in the foremost Rank of Vices stand,
272 Prohibited by an express Command;
273 But whether such they still remain to be,
274 No Argument will positively prove,
275 Without immediate Notice from above;
276 If the Almighty Legislator can
277 Be chang'd, like his inconstant Subject, Man
278 Uncertain thus what to perform, or shun,
279 We all intolerable Hazards run,
280 When an eternal Stake is to be lost, or won.
281 Rejoice, ye Sons of Piety, and sing
282 Loud Hallelujahs to his glorious Name,
283 Who was, and will for ever be the same:
284 Your grateful Incense to his Temples bring,
285 That from the smoaking Altars may arise
286 Clouds of Perfumes to the imperial Skies. [Page 101]
287 His Promises stand firm to you,
288 And endless Joys will be bestow'd,
289 As sure, as that there is a God,
290 On all who Virtue chuse, and righteous Paths pursue.
291 Nor should we more his Menaces distrust,
292 For while he is a Deity, he must
293 (As infinitely good) be infinitely just.
294 But does it with a gracious Godhead suit,
295 Whose Mercy is his Darling Attribute,
296 To punish Crimes, that temporary be,
297 And those but trivial Offences too,
298 Mere slips of human Nature, small and few,
299 With everlasting Misery?
300 This shocks the Mind, with deep Reflections fraught,
301 And Reason bends beneath the pond'rous Thought.
302 Crimes take their estimate from Guilt, and grow
303 More heinous still, the more they do incense
304 That God, to whom all Creatures owe
305 Profoundest Reverence.
306 Tho' as to that degree, they raise
307 The Anger of the Merciful most High,
308 We have no standard to discern it by,
309 But the Infliction, he, on the Offender lays.
310 So that if endless Punishment on all
311 Our unrepented Sins must fall,
312 None, not the least, can be accounted small.
313 That God, is in Perfection just, must be
314 Allow'd by all, that own a Deity:
315 If so, from Equity he cannot swerve,
316 Nor punish Sinners, more than they deserve. [Page 102]
317 His Will reveal'd, is both express and clear,
318 "Ye Cursed of my Father, go
319 "To everlasting Woe;
320 If Everlasting means Eternal here,
321 Duration absolutely without end,
322 Against which Sense some zealously contend,
323 That when apply'd to Pains, it only means,
324 They shall ten Thousand Ages last,
325 Ten Thousand more, perhaps, when they are past.
326 But not Eternal in a Literal Sense;
327 Yet own the Pleasures of the Just remain,
328 So long as there's a God exists to Reign.
329 Tho' none can give a solid Reason, why
330 The Word Eternity,
331 To Heav'n and Hell indifferently join'd,
332 Should carry Senses of a different kind;
333 And 'tis a sad Experiment to try.
334 But if there be one Attribute Divine,
335 With greater Lustre than the rest can shine,
336 'Tis Goodness, which we ev'ry Moment see
337 The God-head exercise with such Delight,
338 It seems, it only seems, to be
339 The best belov'd Perfection of the Deity,
340 And more than Infinite.
341 Without that, he could never prove
342 A proper Object of our Praise or Love. [Page 103]
343 Were he not good, he'd be no more concern'd
344 To hear the Wretched in Affliction cry,
345 Or see the Guiltless for the Guilty die,
346 Than Nero, when the flaming City burn'd,
347 And weeping Romans o'er its Ruins mourn'd.
348 Eternal Justice then would be
349 But everlasting Cruelty:
350 Power unrestrain'd, Almighty Violence,
351 And Wisdom unconfin'd, but Craft immense.
352 'Tis Goodness constitutes Him that He is,
353 And those
354 Who will deny him this,
355 A God without a Deity suppose.
356 When the lewd Atheist blasphemously swears
357 By his tremendous Name,
358 There is no God, but all's a Sham;
359 Insipid Tattle, Praise and Prayers:
360 Virtue, pretence; and all the sacred Rules
361 Religion teaches, Tricks to cully Fools;
362 Justice would strike th' audacious Villain dead,
363 But Mercy boundless saves his guilty Head;
364 Gives him Protection, and allows him Bread.
365 Does not the Sinner, whom no Danger awes,
366 Without Restraint his Infamy pursue,
367 Rejoice, and glory in it too;
368 Laugh at the Power Divine, and ridicule his Laws:
369 Labour in Vice, his Rivals to excel,
370 That when he's dead, they may their Pupils tell
371 How wittily the Fool was damn'd, how hard he fell. [Page 104]
372 Yet this vile Wretch in safety lives,
373 Blessings in common with the best receives,
374 Tho' he is proud t' affront the God those Blessings gives,
375 The chearful Sun his Influence sheds on all,
376 Has no respect to good or ill;
377 And fruitful Showers without distinction fall,
378 Which Fields with Corn, with Grass the Pastures fill,
379 The bounteous Hand of Heaven bestows
380 Success and Honour many times on those
381 Who scorn his Favourites, and caress his Foes.
382 To this good God, whom my advent'rous Pen
383 Has dar'd to celebrate
384 In lofty Pindar's Strain;
385 Tho' with unequal strength to bear the weight
386 Of such a pond'rous Theme, so infinitely great:
387 To this good God, Celestial Spirits pay,
388 With Exstacy divine, incessant Praise,
389 While on the Glories of his Face they gaze,
390 In the bright Regions of eternal Day.
391 To him each rational Existence here,
392 Whose Breast one spark of Gratitude contains,
393 In whom there are the least remains
394 Of Piety or Fear,
395 His Tribute brings of joyful Sacrifice,
396 For Pardon prays, and for Protection flies,
397 Nay, the inanimate Creation give,
398 By prompt Obedience to his Word,
399 Instinctive Honour to their Lord;
400 And shame the thinking World, who in Rebellion live. [Page 105]
401 With Heaven and Earth then, O my Soul, unite,
402 And the great God of both, adore, and bless,
403 Who gives thee Competence, Content and Peace,
404 The only Fountains of sincere Delight.
405 That from the transitory Joys below,
406 Thou, by a happy Exit, may'st remove
407 To those ineffable, above:
408 Which from the Vision of the Godhead flow,
409 And neither End, Decrease, nor Interruption know.