Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CONTRAST, by JOHN BYROM



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A CONTRAST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A humble christian - to whose inward sight
Last Line: Now I go hence to paradise—and died.
Subject(s): Human Rights; Reason; Intellect; Rationalism; Brain; Mind; Intellectuals


A HUMBLE Christian—to whose inward sight
God shews the truth, and then inspires to write,
Because of deeper certainties declar'd,
Than what the mind perceives, when unprepar'd,—
From them who measure all on which he treats,
By the fix'd standard of their own conceits,
Meets with contempt; and very few will own
The real truths which he has really shown.

A sharp philosopher,—who thinks to find,
By his own reason, his own strength of mind,
Sublimer things, that lie so far beyond
The scenes to which such forces correspond,—
From them who love to speculate like him,
And think all light, but that of reason, dim,
Meets with admirers; tho' he reasons wrong,
And draws the dupes, if plausible, along.

Now, tho' a searcher should no more despise
The use of reason, than he should of eyes;
Yet, if there be a still superior light,
Than faculty of Reason has, or Sight;
Which all religion seems to pre-suppose,
That God, on such, as rightly seek, bestows;
In higher matters how should he decide,
Who takes his reason, only, for his guide.

Such words as Nature, Reason, Common Sense,
Furnish all writers with one same pretence;
Altho', in many an acknowledg'd case,
They must fall short, without superior Grace:
So that, in things of more momentous kind,
Nature itself directs us not to mind,—
If sacred truth be heartily desir'd,—
The greatest reas'ners, but the most inspir'd.

Whence comes the value for the scripture page,
So justly due, so paid thro' ev'ry age?
Not writ by men of learning, and of parts,
But honest, humble, and enlighten'd hearts;
Who, when they reason'd, reason'd very well;
But how enabled, let their writings tell;
Not one of all, but who ascribes the force
Of truth discover'd to a higher source.

Take these three men, so diff'rent in their way,
For instance, BEHMEN, BOLINGBROKE, and HAY:
They all philosophize on sacred themes,
And the two last on reason build their schemes:
The first affirms, that his principia flow
From what God's Spirit gave him pow'r to know;
As much a promis'd as a certain Guide,
With Christ's disciples ever to abide.

If Bolingbrokian reason must prevail,
All inspiration is an idle tale:
Writers by that, from Moses down to Paul,—
I spare to mention how he treats them all:
"Now if he err'd, whence did that error spring?"
His reason told him there was no such thing;
Foundress, in her philosophizing cast,
Of all his first philosophy and last.

Hay, better taught and more ingenuous spark,
Gropes with his reason betwixt light and dark;
Now, gentle glimmerings of truth displays;
Now, lost in fancy's intricater maze,
A motley mixture of such things has got
As reason could discover and could not;
Which all the builders on its boasted plan
Prove to be just as manifold as man.

This Behmen knew; and, in his humble way,
Became enlighten'd by a steadier ray;
First taught himself by what he heard and saw,
Of grace and nature he explain'd the law;
That sacred Spirit, from which both arose,
Taught him, of both, the secrets to disclose
To them, who, using eyes and reason too,
Were fit for truth in a diviner view.

He does not write from reason; nor appeals.
Of course, to what that faculty reveals;
Yet, if the common privilege be mine,
Reason may see, that something more divine
Lies hid, in what the books of Behmen teach,
Tho' it surpass its apprehensive reach;
May see, from what it really apprehends,
That all mere reas'ners Behmen far transcends.

Fond of his reason as a man may be,
He should confess its limited degree;
And, by its fair direction, seek to find
A surer Guide to things of deeper kind;
The most sharp-sighted seek for other men,
Who may have seen what lies beyond their ken;
And, in religious matters, most appeals
Are made by men to that which God reveals.

How is it possible to judge aright
Of heav'nly things, but by a heav'nly light?
Contemn'd by Bolingbroke, by Hay confess'd,
By Behmen, possibly at least, possess'd;
Truly inspir'd, as pious minds have thought,
Jacob was known to live as he had taught;
And at his last departing moment cried,—
Now I go hence to Paradise—and died.





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